Public Health’s “ludicrous” new requirement for faeces samples before issuing food certificates has several food vendors shaking the heads in disbelief.
The department’s compliance officer Claytoncy Taurarii said people who handled food must now provide blood and stool samples, and $120 to cover costs of the lab tests.
Restaurants and other businesses have queried the procedures; however, Taurarii said about 30 people have complied with the regulations without too much fuss.
“We want our country to be safe,” she said. “We can test for pathogens – giardia, parasites and occult blood.”
A blood test was taken at the hospital, and a collection jar is given to collect the cook or kitchen hand’s stool.
“As well as micro-biological cross contamination, we need to know what’s in your body is actually safe.”
Taurarii said she had verbally advised several businesses of the new procedures, last month.
One food vendor was incredulous as the new rule.
"In all my years of owning a business that provides food, I or my staff have never been asked to provide a stool sample, this is just ridiculous,” she said.
"What is the point of all this, for what tests? What's going on? It's just ludicrous.
"And what about all the market vendors, their families, people who sell food at shops ... I can't believe Public Health want our poop."
The provision of a licence to provide food for sale is empowered by the Food Act, Food Regulations and Ministry of Health Act, to protect and avoid food-borne diseases and outbreaks in the Cook Islands.
Secretary of Health Dr Aumea Herman said Te Marae Ora was lifting health services and this work involved the review and enforcement of health protection laws and regulations.
An awareness campaign would be launched on the food licence processes, including letters to all food handlers next week. And there would be “a one-year grace period for all food handlers to comply”.
Dr Herman said next week’s letters would explain the legal requirements to obtain and retain a food licence, and invitation food workers to a workshop later this month.
Food Act, section 25:
(1) no person shall be engaged upon premises in the preparation, storage or sale of food while
a. That person’s clothing or body is unclean.
b. Smoking or chewing tobacco or gum.
c. Suffering from any communicable disease or any skin eruptions
d. Wearing unclean or medicated bandages.
e. Not in possession of a medical certificate that is less than 12 months, permitting that person to be so engaged.
(2) Every proprietor who shall permit (whether knowingly or not) any person to be so engaged contrary to subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence.