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Consumers devoured by Food Act!

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Improving food hygiene hampered: Health officials

Improving food hygiene in the country is hampered by deficiencies in the Food Act, Chief Medical Officer of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), Dr. Ruwan Wijayamuni said.

Speaking to The Nation, Dr. Wijayamuni pointed out that there are no provisions currently in the Food Act to immediately shut down eateries which are found to be selling unhygienic food. “In order to shut such places down, we need to file action either under the Nuisance Ordinance or under Section 98(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code. This doesn’t make any sense.”

Dr. Wijayamuni stated the Act should be amended so that the Ministry of Health and Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) are empowered to temporarily shut down eateries selling unhygienic food at least for two weeks without having to first obtain a court order. “If we have the authority to shut them down temporarily on the spot, and only then have to go to courts to extend that period, it would help our efforts a great deal,” he said.

Speaking further, he said without such a provision, officials would not be able to effectively improve food hygiene.

Treasurer of the Public Health Inspector’s (PHI) Union of Sri Lanka, D.Y.S.R.R. Mudalige, agreed it would be better if health officials were given the authority to take more stringent action against owners of unhygienic eateries.

“Right now, we can warn owners of such eateries and if they don’t get their act together, we can obtain a court order to shut them down. This takes time.”

While there is no question that comparatively, the Food Act is a strong piece of legislation, it would be better if it was updated to suit present requirements, especially considering the number of eateries mushrooming all over, Mudalige opined.

Dr. Wijayamuni, meanwhile, appealed to consumers in Colombo to only frequent as much as possible, eateries that have been issued with a special plaque by the CMC certifying that they have met the standards of food hygiene set by the CMC.

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