Food sample quality report, clean handlers must for eateries

By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

New measures have been introduced from this year by the Colombo Municipal Council to prevent disease being dished out along with food to unsuspecting customers in the city. When any place serving food, be it a star-grade hotel, a restaurant, a buth kade (boutique serving rice) or canteen, is renewing its trade licence, it will have to mandatorily produce a food sample quality report as well as a clean bill of health for all those handling food, the Sunday Times learns.

This will be in addition to the other essential certificates such as water-quality reports and the fact that the water supply is pipe-borne and not from tube wells and Urban Development Authority approval obtained for the building, CMC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam said.

All places serving food, amounting to about 750 outlets, should comply with these conditions before the end of March if they wish to renew their trade licences, he said. The CMC’s decision to seek a food sample quality report and medical clearance for staff handling food follows findings that 18% of the food served in the city is contaminated with germs.

“We have found in food E-coli, salmonella and staphylococcus which cause food poisoning,” pointed out Dr. Kariyawasam, explaining that contamination could arise through those handling food and if tube-well water is used as the water table is polluted with faecal matter.

The need to get a clean bill of health for food handlers came about after the CMC’s Public Health Inspectors and Food Inspectors conducted an audit last year. Diseases such as hepatitis, typhoid and tuberculosis (TB) can easily be passed on from food handlers to their customers, said Dr. Kariyawasam, adding that the CMC had vaccinated many against typhoid.

With reports coming in from medical circles that TB prevalence was high among hotel workers, discussions are underway with the Ministry of Health to get them to undergo chest X-rays free of charge, it is learnt.

However, if it was found that food handlers had not had hepatitis, then hotels and eating houses would have to vaccinate them against this disease, he said, adding that it has been recorded that about 70% of people in Sri Lanka have antibodies against hepatitis.

“This means that they have either had hepatitis at some point or have been vaccinated. So the owners of hotels and eating houses should vaccinate the balance to prevent them contracting hepatitis and then passing it on to their customers through food.”

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