The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) would like to compliment the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for wanting to strengthen enforcement exercise in the state as reported recently in the media. Currently the MBPP’s is limited in the issuance of compound to dirty food outlets.
As of now, only the Health Department has the power to close down illegal and dirty premises under Section 38 (1) of the Food Establishment Act Bylaws 1991. Hence, the MBPP had in 2013 requested the Health Ministry (MoH) to grant them the power to close dirty eateries. We support the move as there are many illegal and dirty premises as well as repeat offenders.
CAP has in the past highlighted instances of eateries placing food on the floor and of some eateries that prepared their food next to the toilet. The departments’ officers have on occasions found food outlets infested with rodents and other pests, or at least evidence of their presence in the form of their excrement or carcasses.
Other potential health hazards are the over stuffing of their refrigerators or freezers, and storage of processed food together with raw meat. This increases cross contamination of, particularly, processed food because they will just be heated up but not be thoroughly cooked before serving.
Such filthy and unhygienic practices put the customers of these eateries at risk of food poisoning. They also tarnish the names of those that adhere to standard food handling practices.
Environmental health licensing officers should raid all eateries and come down hard on them, particularly repeat offenders. This is provided for in Section 39 of the Bylaw, any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this by-law “shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for not more than one year or both, and in the case of further offenses, a sum of not more than two hundred dollars for each day of the offense shall continue after conviction.”
We urge the MBPP to consider increasing the fine to “not more than RM15,000” because a fine of RM2,000 is a small amount to a chain food outlet whose daily income can exceed RM15,000. This is probably the reason why some eateries dare to flout the Bylaws time and again.
Food is supposed to be a blessing for us; that is prepared with care and eaten with gratitude. But sadly modern living has made many of us turn to these eateries for our sustenance, where means are churned out callously as shown by the Council’s inspection. It is all the more reason that the authorities should come down hard on these establishments, not only do they flout the law but disregard basic respect for the food we eat.
MoH should seriously consider granting the MBPP’s environmental health licensing department the power to close down illegal and dirty premises then blacklist and ban repeat offenders from operating eateries. Particularly when Penang is touted as a ‘food paradise’ the government cannot risk the health of both its population and visitors.
Press statement, 28 February 2020