FOOD HANDLERS ACT – A MUST FOR MALAYSIA!

Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa)

TIME FOR A FOOD HANDLERS ACT IN MALAYSIA!

Yes, I sound like John the Baptist – a voice crying in the wilderness urging, appealing and screaming for a comprehensive Food Handlers Act in Malaysia!

The reasons are aplenty from the ineffectiveness of the Food Act 1985 which is outdated, to the sorry, corrupt and ineffectiveness of our enforcement and total invasion of this sector by foreigners from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Africa, Middle East and West Asian countries to our own Malaysians!

With the reemergence of many once eradicated diseases – we need to question and seek answers to the present problems brought about by apathy, incompetence, corruption and sheer lack of political and professional will!

So if my appeal for a Food Handlers Act is favorable -

What do they cover?

The Regulations apply to all types of food and drink and their ingredients.

But some businesses – generally manufacturers of products of animal origin, such as dairies or wholesale fish markets – follow their own product specific regulations. These regulations are listed

Identifying and controlling food hazards

As the proprietor of a food business, you are expected to:

  • make sure food is supplied or sold in a hygienic way;
  • identify food safety hazards;
  • know which steps in your activities are critical for food safety;
  • ensure safety controls are in place, maintained and reviewed.

Controls do not have to be complex. There are systems that can be used by food businesses to ensure that hazards are identified and controls are in place.

For example – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is one of a number of such systems.

The Regulations aim to set out basic hygiene principles, which are generally not new. But their emphasis is different from previous regulations. They focus more strongly on how to identify and control food safety risks at each stage of the process of preparing and selling food.

Rather than simply following a list of rules, the Regulations let you assess the risk to food safety and then apply controls relevant to your own situation.

This will work provided you are accountable and ethical!

But in all fairness – not all the requirements for the structure and equipment of food premises will apply to you.

Some are followed by the words “where appropriate” or “where necessary”.

For example, one provision states that, “where appropriate” floors must allow surface drainage. But where you have a system to ensure water does not build up, so that there is no risk to food safety, actual floor drains may not be necessary. So there is no absolute requirement to have them.
Basic requirements for food businesses

Food premises should: (and where *Malaysian food outlets fail!)

  • be clean and maintained in good repair;
  • be designed and constructed to permit good hygiene practices;
  • have an adequate supply of potable (drinking) water;
  • have suitable controls in place to protect against pests;
  • have adequate natural and/or artificial lighting;
  • have sufficient natural and/or mechanical ventilation;
  • provide clean lavatories which do not lead directly into food rooms;
  • have adequate hand washing facilities;
  • be provided with adequate drainage.

Rooms where food is prepared, treated or processed should generally have surface finishes which are easy to clean and, where necessary, disinfect. This would, for instance, apply to wall, floor and equipment finishes. The rooms should also have:

  • adequate facilities for washing food and equipment;
  • adequate facilities for the storage and removal of food waste.

Of course, many of the Regulations are basic minimum hygiene standards which apply to every food business. But how they are applied still depends on the situation. For example, every food premises must be kept clean. But how they are cleaned, and how often, will be different for a manufacturer of ready-to-eat meals than for a bakery selling bread or even fast food outlets!

Supplies of raw materials

Do not buy or supply any raw materials if you think that even after sorting or processing they could make food unfit for human consumption. Any material which you suspect or know to be infected or contaminated with parasites or foreign substances to this extent should be rejected.

Quality of Water in food

There must be an adequate supply of potable (drinking) water, to be used whenever necessary to ensure food is not contaminated. In the vast majority of cases, this is supplied via the public water supply. But if there is any doubt about the quality of a water supply, you should seek advice from your local council Environmental Health Services.

Personal hygiene for food handlers

Anyone who works in a food handling area must maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness. And the way in which they work must also be clean and hygienic. Food handlers must wear clean and, where appropriate, protective over-clothes. Anyone whose work involves handling food should/must:

  • observe good personal hygiene;
  • routinely wash their hands when handling food;
  • never smoke in food handling areas;
  • report any illness (like infected wounds, skin infections, diarrhea or vomiting) to their manager or supervisor immediately.

If any employee reports that they are suffering from any such illness, the business may have to exclude them from food handling areas. Such action should be taken urgently. If you have any doubt about the need to exclude, you should seek urgent medical advice!

Employers must not send them to work fully knowing that they are ill as many do today!

Preventing food contamination

Food handlers must protect food and ingredients against contamination which is likely to render them unfit for human consumption or a health hazard. For example, uncooked poultry should not contaminate ready-to-eat foods, either through direct contact or through work surfaces or equipment.

Training and supervising food handlers

Food handlers must receive adequate supervision, instruction and/or training in food hygiene. Each food business must decide what training or supervision their food handlers need by identifying the areas of their work most likely to affect food hygiene.

Many of the guidelines in this guidance apply equally to food businesses trading from temporary or occasional locations like those under the tree, stalls, by hawkers, entrenched sites, canteens and so forth.

But because not all of them will be practical, there are also some slightly different requirements. However, wherever food is sold, two basic rules always apply:

  • there should be adequate facilities to prepare and serve food safely; and
  • food handling procedures should avoid exposing food to risk of any contamination.

Even some fast food and high end outlets are guilty of this from consumer feedbacks and our observations.

I have repeatedly asked those operating under such licenses to read again the conditions of their franchise from the mother company in the United States, the UK, and Spain, Germany or the cold terrains of the North Pole!

Let us say – No to any more food poisoning incidences or worst the continued increase of diseases we had at one time eradicated!

 Our campaign against RACISM of all forms!

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