FOOD HYGIENE AND HOSPITAL CANTEENS WHY SUCH DOUBLE STANDARDS ASK MALAYSIA ASEAN/APEC LEAD CONSUMERIST DR JACOB GEORGE?

‘Let us not forget that under Section 11 of the Food Act 1983 food premises can be closed down for their failure to meet hygiene criteria for restaurants.’ Datuk Dr Jacob George

FOOD HYGIENE AND HOSPITAL CANTEENS WHY SUCH DOUBLE STANDARDS ASK MALAYSIA ASEAN/APEC LEAD CONSUMERIST DR JACOB GEORGE?

All Malaysians will agree that the number of eateries the Health Ministry (MOH) was compelled to close reflected a poor awareness among Malaysians and those who are expected to protect consumer rights and interests in this area of food safety and hygiene!

For example, in 2015, a total of 124,254 food premises were inspected. Of this 2,422 (1.9%) were ordered closed.

That is not the full story as a total of 8,210 compounds were issued to food premises operators for offenses committed under the Food Hygiene Regulations 2009!

A great move by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health!
Well done!

But sadly the situation shows no sign of improving.

And there are reports that in 2016, first half 645 of the 28,026 food premises inspected were ordered to close.

And allegations/report that 3,418 compounds have been issued for various offenses.

I am sure we are all aware of that circular issued by the ministry on Food Hygiene Regulations 2009, which was fully enforced from January 2014, stated 33 compoundable offenses for food operators.

And they range from licensing to the transportation of meat, cooked food and raw fruits as well as vegetables.

Maximum penalties include fines not exceeding RM10, 000.00 or not more than two years’ jail, or both.

But how many have received such punishments to date?

Food handlers including hawkers must be licensed by their respective councils who will ensure that they have been vaccinated against typhoid.

That is not all as we have a food handlers training programme started by MOH in 1996 in preparation for the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

Again if my data is correct we should have more than 251 entities recognized by the Government as training centers.

And those applying for restaurant and hawker licenses are advised to also attend the course.

But dirty eateries thrive, and one must ask, why this is so?

Perhaps, just perhaps, the inexplicable case of that cafeteria at Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital (HTAR) in Klang, which was ordered to close and inexplicably allowed to resume operations at 10pm on the same day may give some insights to why we have such heinous actions and defiling of health protocols in a country now playing host to an international event and in full glare of this episode for the world to see!

This really confirms Malaysia is a nation with “endless possibilities!”

There are reports that when HTAR director Dr Ding Lay Ming, when contacted is alleged to have stated that the decision to allow the cafeteria to resume operations was made following a review of the assessment made by the Klang District Health Office (PKD) on the cleanliness of the premises which complied with the set requirements.

We are told that the PKD which had issued a notice for the closure of the cafeteria at 2pm a day earlier following an inspection carried out after a 32-second video clip showing a rat feasting in a vegetable container at the cafeteria went viral on the social media, inexplicably allowed the cafeteria to resume operations after considering the welfare of the hospital staff and visitors.

Seriously – the “welfare of the hospital staff and visitors?”

Of course, we are told by the same good doctor that the same health department would continue to monitor the cleanliness of hospital cafeterias and would blacklist as well as terminate the contracts of operators that were frequently issued clean-up notices.

For one, Malaysians are not a bunch of idiots!

To the reasonable person, it shows clearly that that Health Regulations are not evenly applied.

If HTAR director Dr Ding Lay Ming assurance allows the cafeteria in this storm to be opened same day, would not a precedent be set for others caught for the same offense, nationwide?

Sadly, let me remind the good doctor cum administrator that it was under their watch this happened!

In fact, let me update those in administrative positions in that hospital and others, that this is not the first time this cafeteria has been in such a situation and in the media!

Since 1982, like many other hospitals nationwide, I have very intimate knowledge of all of them!

I need not say more!

Meanwhile, Selangor Health Department director must be asked to whom his loyalty lies – to the public interests or stakeholders caught once again exposed of their incompetence, duty of care and lack of professionalism!

Questions need to be also asked why a canteen that was to be closed for a longer period, was not so?

Amazingly, the canteen is given the all-clear within 8 hours!

Malaysian politicians obsessed with records, should take this speedy approval as another potential first for the Guinness Book of Records – No?

The speed with which the operator was allowed to re-commence his services reflects the depth of scrutiny the canteen was subjected to?

And why and whose interest is being protected?

Perhaps, the MACC should now seriously look into this case which has received great public interest and anger!

On the other hand, administrators managing hospital canteens or cafeteria from the world over should send teams to learn from the Malaysia’s Selangor Health Department, how they managed such a feat post an exposure such as this in such a short time frame!

On the other hand let me congratulate the Federal Territories health department who had launched a crackdown on eateries, stalls and restaurants to curb the spread of typhoid in the city.

That task force had inspected 160 premises in Kuala Lumpur and 10 were shut down for failing inspection guidelines as outlined by the Food Act 1983 and Food Act 2009!

Let us not forget that under Section 11 of the Food Act 1983 food premises can be closed down for their failure to meet hygiene criteria for restaurants.

More importantly, I wonder why we have such sensitiveness and high tolerance levels for rats in Malaysia and protect them!

Indeed, pun intended!