Are our restaurants really safe and clean to dine in

Written By : MARAEA WAQALEVU . The hygiene of any restaurant that a diner enters and chooses to eat in is always a question worth pondering on. But the thing
22 Aug 2008 12:00

image Written By : MARAEA WAQALEVU . The hygiene of any restaurant that a diner enters and chooses to eat in is always a question worth pondering on.
But the thing is, as a diner, do you really know whether the eatery you’ve chosen to dine and probably entertain guests or family members in is indeed hygienic.
In its quest to make sure that hygiene is a top priority in restaurants, the Consumer Council of Fiji is launching its first ever campaign with the intention to engage consumers on an issue that concerns them and have decided to conduct this campaign again restaurants and eating places to make restaurant hygiene your concern.
Consumer Council on the launching of the Consumer Council of Fiji Campaign Against Restaurants chairman Narendra Padarath said that given the financial difficult times that consumers are experiencing, the Council has chosen to campaign against restaurant hygiene practices.
Mr Padarath said that even though the council should be campaigning to bring the food and fuel prices to an affordable consumer level, it is an everyday affair the council has to fight against but the campaign against the hygiene practices of restaurants and eating places is a one time campaign.
“Of course you may be thinking that given the financial difficult times that our consumers are experiencing, the council has chosen to campaign against restaurant hygiene rather than the escalating food and fuel prices,” Mr Padarath said.
“But let me remind you that campaigning against the hygiene practices of restaurants and eating places is a one time campaign that will go on till November this year.”
The ‘Make Restaurant Hygiene Your Concern Today’ is part of a strategy for introducing a hygiene rating for restaurants and eateries in Fiji and making restaurants responsible for providing quality services to consumers.
The Campaign aims to raise awareness of food hygiene issues to firstly, change behaviour of food operators to employ good hygiene practices when preparing and handling food and secondly to place pressure on the regulatory authorities to enforce the Public Health Act, to help achieve the Council’s aim of addressing consumer complaints and ensuring food safety is practices by all food outlets.
The Consumer Council in its campaign activity will have media coverage and radio adverts to encourage consumers to support the campaign initiative and become involved by their sharing experiences, observations as well as make suggestions on how to make restaurants responsible for practicing food safety.
Mr Padarath said that most of us choose to eat takeaway meals from restaurants but it is only right hat we get quality food that is hygienically prepared.
“I think we all agree that our hectic lives cause us to eat takeaway meals from a restaurant, cafe, tea room, or supermarket cafeteria quite often,” said Mr Padarath.
“It is only right that we as consumers get what we pay for – that is quality food that is hygienically prepared and that we can trust to consume without becoming sick.”
Consumers have complained about finding pests or insects in their food. Some foods are sold stale, or the food is either half cooked or sold cold.
The Consumer Council has noted that some consumers have written to them complaining about cockroaches, dead flies and maggots being the commonly found pests and insects found in restaurant or café foods.
A first of its kind was the discovery of a rat tail in a Chinese takeaway from a Suva restaurant and a consumer has also complained about the mixture of meat dust in meat pies and sausage rolls in some restaurants operating in the Suva city.
And because of such complaints, it is in the consumers’ interest to know the hygiene status of food outlets to prevent the consumption of contaminated food and falling sick as a result of it.
According to the Consumer Council, there is no fast way and easy way of knowing if a restaurant has a kitchen that is filthy or is infested with rates and cockroaches, or even if it has undergone municipal council inspection.
Mr Padarath added that there are schemes in various other countries that have restaurant hygiene ratings and people are informed about the hygiene of food premises using grades or scores.
“It is important to address food hygiene in restaurants because Fiji is heavily dependent on tourism numbers and dollars,” he said.
“For example, Suva is working tirelessly to display itself as a tourist destination. However, the present ambience of restaurants is an area that has been overlooked in their efforts.”
And following examples overseas, the Council anticipates that the campaign will results in reforms like cleaner restaurants, satisfied diners, more revenue generation for clean restaurants, increase in diner numbers and reduced consumer complaints.
Furthermore, tests conducted of various food outlets in the vicinity of Suva by the University of the South Pacific IAS laboratory clearly revealed that food contamination is likely to happen from the catering workers.
Many catering workers are not carrying out a step that is an essential part of good food hygiene practice.
“Some examples include having short clean fingernails, tying back of hair and washing hands after handling raw meat or money.”
The Council says the public expects people who prepare food to follow basic food hygiene practices, but often they can’t see what goes on in a catering establishment’s kitchen.
All consumers are now encouraged to join the Council campaign on ‘Make Restaurant Hygiene Your Concern Today’.
The Council wants consumers to know that they lodge their complaints by filling out a complaint form at the three Council premises in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa or visit www.consumersfiji.org to fill a form there.
Consumers would be allowed to share their experiences and observations with restaurants via letter, email, fax or phone and consumers are also advised to send picture of eating places who seem not to practice food hygiene or they could suggest what enforcement agencies should do to protect the health if its people and recommend how to make restaurants and eateries more responsible for practicing better hygiene standards in their services.

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