DAP: Reopening of fast food outlet remains questionable despite MoH’s reply

Kelvin Yii showing photos of his recent visit to the fast food restaurant.

KUCHING, Dec 16: Democractic Action Party (DAP) says that the reply from the Ministry of Health (MoH) pertaining to the circumstances surrounding the reopening of a fast food outlet located at Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce has raised other questions of public interest.

A local daily today reported that State Health Department director Dr Jamilah Hashim had said the reopening of the outlet had complied to the standard procedures outlined by the Health Ministry for hygiene and food safety.

She said a team from the department had conducted a follow-up inspection on the outlet on Thursday, where they found satisfactory improvement from the first check done the day before.

From the official notice served by the Ministry of Health to the outlet, the premises was supposedly to be temporarily closed for 14 days from Dec 13, 2017 at 2pm to Dec 27, 2017, under Section 11 of the Food Act 1983 on the grounds that it is unhygienic and may pose a risk to the safety and health of the public.

However, less than a day later, the fast food outlet had reopened for business.

In a press statement today, Dr Kelvin Yii, special assistant to Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen, questioned if the “efficiency” shown by MoH with regards to the hasty reopening of the fast food outlet be fairly applied across the board for all eateries, restaurant and food joint in the state now that such a ‘precedent’ has been set.

“The restaurant was served a noticed to be close at 2 pm, and since then, based on the reply of state Health Department director Dr Jamilah Hashim, both the MoH and the restaurant owner followed the Standard Operating Procedures(SOP) which is stated in the Food Act 1983 under s10(3) and s10(4) which requires the proprietor or owner to request an inspection by an authorized officer in writing to the Director and officer authorized by him.

“Only after the request is made, then an authorised officer shall inspect the food premises within a certain period after the receipt of the request by the Director or the officer authorised by him, then if proven satisfactory, a certificate to that effect be issued.

“So, based on that SOP, the restaurant owner would have to do the required thorough cleaning of the premises, write an official letter to the Director and upon acknowledgement of receipt, order for a second inspection to take place and with to make sure that the required cleaning satisfies the criteria set by the Health Ministry.

“In this case, it was all done within the span of less than 24 hours,” said Yii.

He added that as much as he commended the ‘efficiency’ shown by the relevant officials, the recent course of events raises up other questions of public interest with regards to the matter, including whether the cleaning of the premises over such a short duration was sufficient to satisfy the criteria set by MoH, including the proper elimination of the alleged pests which had caused the shutdown notice to be issued in first place, such as rats or cockroaches and the reduction of the risk of their return. He also questioned if any chemicals were used during the cleaning and whether it was properly cleared out making it safe for public exposure and food consumption in the said area.

Yii also reiterated an earlier question he posed, asking if this recent incident set a wrong precedent and would send the wrong message to business owners since there isn’t much of a ‘penalty’ imposed upon non-complaint of health and safety guidelines.

“Are they saying that an alleged rogue business owner can then carry out cleaning procedures when and only they are served with the notice, and then they can continue business the day after?” he asked.

“The recommended and standard policy of temporary closure for 14 days I believe was put in place for a reason as it provides adequate time for thorough cleaning and proper re-inspection.

“As much as we support the right for businesses to run and support the welfare of their workers, however there should be no compromise especially when it comes to public health and the safety of the public at large especially when it involves children and families.

“The Ministry holds the responsibility to instil confidence in the public that health and safety guidelines are properly adhered to and no special treatment is afforded to those who may have people in high places and authority.

“Public health and safety trumps any business or even political interest.” — DayakDaily