Health and Safety
I have lived in Hong Kong for many years and hygiene and sanitary levels here are actually very good. Bouts of SARS, Bird flu and other occasional bugs from the Mainland, have made the populace very aware of overall personal hygiene and sanitary levels. Food labelling is now mandatory, although the Government labelling system is rather random, a confluence of various international standards. But it is a good thing to have and the supermarkets pay rigid attention to the rules. The wet markets are a different kettle of fish, however.
I want to flag these wonderful local establishments, the wet markets. They are still the ‘Go To’ place for the majority of domestic housewives for every fresh food item. Their prices are usually very good, and they meet the need for the local populace’s inherent desire for fresh food items. There is even a supermarket chain that has strategically positioned itself next to the markets, to supply the condiments and various other goodies for the best cooking mix. But their hygiene?
I have to say that that markets are so much cleaner than they ever were. There are now strict government protocols in place to how the overall markets are operated and particularly their regular cleaning. However, the stalls within the markets are individually operated under a ‘fresh provision shop license’ obtained by the operator from the Government. The license’s intent is good ensuring, in setting up, that the operator meets certain criteria. However, I would suggest that once in operation, the standards intended by Government fail somewhat. If there is ever a ‘breakout’ of some new bug, it always seems to be in these markets, resulting in a government enforced closure. Why can’t rules be more stringent?
My company operates a ‘food factory’, purely for packing of seafood items. We have a ‘Food factory license’ issued by the Hong Kong Government upon a successful annual inspection. However, to meet our corporate client needs, our establishment also conforms to what is commonly called an HACCP (Health and Critical Control Point) system. This is an accreditation that shows that all our products are handled safely, our facility is maintained at a high level of cleanliness and my staff are trained in food handling. It is not a cheap bit of paper and my buyers insist we are so accredited. This in turn links in with the ‘chain of custody’ we operate to prove the sustainability of our seafood. Bringing the two together means that we have an A-Z accredited system, ensuring the seafood you get is from a healthy and reliable source and has been handled throughout the supply chain in a responsible and safe manner.
So why am I ranting about this. Until last week, my relatives were still shopping at the wet markets. They became scared recently when CV-19 was found ‘on fish’ in a seafood market and were worried about contagion. Well there is definitive evidence that CV-19 cannot be spread by fish. It can be spread by unhygienic operators in unhygienic places of sale. So please, again…. Be sensible. Don’t buy from places that to not have or do not abide by cleanliness regulations. If you really love these places and the products that they sell, which is ‘OK’, then use your power. Create change, get them to change. Lobby the Government but don’t stay silent. Be proactive. This change surely must be for the better.
And one last point, the HKD 50 million proposal from the Hong Kong Federation of restaurants for a certification scheme for food safety, supposedly in an attempt to contain the spread of CV-19. This is just ridiculous. There are enough guidelines and rules in place at the moment. To operate, licenses are required, issued by the Government’s Food and Environment Hygiene Department. These cover restaurants, food stalls, food factories, basically every entity dealing with food. Are they policed effectively? Probably not.. there’s the rub. In addition, for us in the food catering business, our clients insist on the higher level of food safety accreditation, such as HACCP and ISO. So why can’t you the people speak?
There is no need for anymore accreditation. Why don’t you speak with action? Only go to restaurants that are clean and accredited. Ask to see the accreditation? And if you believe in saving the oceans, then only eat at restaurants that show they can supply the said and again, are accredited. If you, the consumer, can take this step, you will create change. You will change the industry and most likely also help in the reduction of CV-19 in addition to other nasty bugs.
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