WITH the recent furore over dirty eateries found in several locations in Petaling Jaya, people are becoming more conscious and alert in choosing which food outlets they patronise.
Last month, many people were horrified when a video showing workers of a restaurant in Bangsar washing dishes in a puddle of murky water in a back lane, became public.
Then another three restaurants in Petaling Jaya were ordered to shut down for not only having dirty premises but also unhygienic conditions, with rat droppings and cockroaches found in cupboards and refrigerators.
University student Kalvinderjeet Kaur, 22, said she once used to patronise a stall selling mixed rice, but stopped going there after she found an insect in her food.
She said from that moment she just stopped patronising the stall and was glad that, after a while, the stall was closed for good.
“Generally before entering a shop, we can predict the environment, and its cleanliness level.
“But then again, it can be difficult to judge how clean the kitchen is,” she added.
Self-employed Baljit Kaur, 37, said she hardly goes to outlets like mamak restaurants or stalls because, generally, such places can be dirty and she does not find the food appealing.
She said many such restaurants’ employees have poor understanding of hygienic food-handling practices.
“Often there are stray animals around and the business premises are poorly maintained.
“As a result, I eat home-cooked food often and do my own grocery shopping.
“If I ever eat out, then I prefer clean outlets with well-prepared food, even if it is a bit pricier,” she added.
Fashion designer Susannah Sarkunan, 31, said it appears that no one controls the hygiene of many eateries, be it the food handling or the surroundings.
She said she has seen some workers wear gloves but still accept money from customers and continue preparing food.
Susannah said it is important to understand aspects of food handling, as it affects public health.
“Employers need to take responsibility to ensure that the cleanliness of everything from the wok being used, the places where food is kept, to the surroundings, are well taken care of.
“They need to train their staff because it appears some workers do not see the relevance of all these concerns.
“The bottom line is that the onus must be on the business owner to ensure that workers comply with basic food-handling standards,” she added.
Another college student, Balreen Kaur Badesha, 21, said eateries should be following hygiene standards when dealing with food in order to avoid facing repercussions, whether from the authorities or the public.
She said if people do not voice their concerns over hygiene standards, dirty eateries merely continue operating unpunished.
She said the best approach is to have enforcement agencies regularly checking on the hygiene of eateries and educating workers on the importance of handling food with care.
“I would expect the places where I dine to have a clean environment and food prepared hygienically.
“Kitchenware, and utensils should be cleaned properly using clean warm water and soap, or in a dishwasher.
“Owners in eateries should ensure that workers handling any food have a clean bill of health and maintain their personal hygiene,” she added.
Planner, Hezeryn Rose Hussein, 42, said many hawkers need to pay more attention to food preparation.
“My selection of eateries is based on halal certification, and whether meat is butchered according to Islamic requirements.
“Pricing and the quality of food plays an important role as well, plus the availability of parking,” she added.
Beljeet Kaur, a Malaysian who lives in Tasmania, said she will not step into an eatery if she hears that its standards are bad.
“After almost gagging on half a cockroach in my teh tarik in Malaysia once, I am afraid of what else I will discover.
“Another aspect is that the turnover of the food must be good, otherwise, most likely the ingredients they use may not be totally fresh,” she added.
Housewife N. Redika Kanarasan, 42, said, these days, she worries even when patronising ‘proper outlets’.
She said the outlet might look nice, but the work areas are another question.
“Sometimes I wonder if workers are subject to health screenings .
A flight attendant, who only wished to be known as Steven, said he normally goes straight to the toilet before sitting down in a restaurant.
“This gives me some idea of the overall cleanliness in the establishment, as well as sometimes passing by their kitchen, and if I feel its not clean, then I will just walk out,” he added.
When contacted, Ipoh Datuk Bandar Datuk Zamri Man said there have been no major complaints of excessively dirty restaurants in the city so far this year.
He said along with the State Health Department, the Ipoh City Council conduct checks of all eateries to ensure that these are clean.
“About 40% of the eateries here in Ipoh are categorised as Grade A, with the others being Grade B or C. Cleanliness and hygiene of all premises, especially those involving food, is always a priority,” he said.
“We will continue to ensure that these be given more focus as Ipoh is known as a food haven to tourists and locals,” he added.