Public health is cracking down on food hygiene. 20022111
Unsafe food practices happening all over the islands, chefs’ representative warns.
Public Health has put a hold on demanding faeces samples from all food vendors.
The requirement for stool samples from food handlers renewing their certificates has been set aside, pending further notice, a Ministry of Health spokesperson said.
The about-turn comes after anger from restaurants, takeaways and market stall operators, who questioned the $120 fee for the privilege of giving blood and stool samples to health inspectors.
The $120 fee was intended to cover costs of the lab tests.
But other countries require samples only when investigating gastro outbreaks, not as a routine matter of course every 12 months.
This week, food vendors said they were pleased that Public Health was not requiring stool samples.
All food handlers are still required to undergo physical medical screening, including a food safety assessment.
Cook Islands Chefs Association president Karlene Taokia said education and awareness should be a priority on this subject.
“Stool samples are to find out what caused the illness in the first place,” she argued.
“The main concern is that all food handlers should be educated in this area.
“Everyone who prepares food need to understand the importance of how to store, handle and cook all food; that includes food temperatures, cross-contamination, prevention of food-borne illnesses, clean kitchens, clean and tidy food preparation areas.”
She believed people needed a better understanding from the Ministry of Health through attentive mindfulness and training instruction on why people could get sick from eating unsafe food.
She questioned whether people even knew what made food unsafe.
There were restaurants and cooks who did have an understanding of food safety, she said, whether that be the correct temperature for a fridge, or how to avoid cross contamination.
But Taokia said there were also unsafe food practises happening all over the island, such as plates of food are left out all day on benches at shops.
“Everyone should be accountable and everyone should want to provide safe and clean food.”
Taokia said an accredited food certificate should be made conditional before one could apply for a health permit/food licence.