Eating out in Colombo can make you sick, warns CMC


This year to- date, a total of 128 restaurants in Colombo have been prosecuted under the Food Act, for being guilty of selling food unsuitable for consumption, and for not adhering to hygienic practices in their preparation. The cases were filed by Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) and Food Inspectors (FIs) following raids conducted by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

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CMC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam told the Sunday Times that, even though some of these restaurants claim to be winners of awards and citations, including the ISO, when the CMC raided these establishments they were found wanting in the quality of the food they served and in its preparation.

“Of the food samples collected from food outlets within Colombo, 33% were bad, which is a significantly high figure. We have insisted that all food outlets use water from the main line, without using ground water, as the ground water samples that were collected were contaminated,” he said.

He added that since there is no benchmark when it comes to food hygiene, the existing rules have to be strictly enforced, compelling the licencee responsible for its compliance. Even if a case is filed against any restaurant, the restaurant can still continue its business until the court rules, which is a time-consuming process. The CMC does not have legal powers to take direct action such as closing down a place that sells poor quality food.

“This year, we will be strict on the conditions and requirements to be fulfilled when issuing licences to food outlets, and we have implemented a process of grading restaurants. At least 80% of the food samples provided will have to pass the tests conducted, for the food outlet to be graded ‘A’,” he said.

Emphasising the fact that last year, two five-star hotels in Colombo were prosecuted for food poisoning, he said that, all food outlets in Colombo should possess the CMC medical, planning and fire departments’ certification, with proper water lines and drainage systems, having quality utensils and employing skilled/trained personnel for food handling. All theses requirements will be looked into when licences are issued for food outlets.

It is high time consumers become cautious and particular of what they consume when eating out, as poor quality food leads to serious health issues. The safest is, as much as possible, to eat a home cooked meal.

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