Calls for online food operators to observe good hygiene

Support Malaysian Restaurants’ page reminds all food sellers to undergo an online food safety handling course and get vaccinated.

FOOD businesses were among the first to offer their services online as soon as the movement control order (MCO) was imposed.

However, concerns have arisen whether good hygiene and food handling practices are being adhered to.

As mouth-watering as the pictures put up by operators on delivery apps and social media were, diners said they were unsure of the goings-on in the kitchen, or even if the operators were licensed.

Kenny Tan, a retired broker who orders food online at least four times a week during the MCO, suggested the Health Ministry and local councils conduct checks at the premises of these food businesses.

“It would be self-defeating to exercise social distancing and sanitising only to find the food that is being delivered to our homes is contaminated, ” he said.

Tan added that it would give the public peace of mind if the authorities made it compulsory for those in the food business to include their licence numbers in online posts and advertisements.

“This would be a useful audit trail to draw upon as reference in the event of food poisoning not to mention a mark of quality assurance for the business itself, ” said Tan.

Abdul Razak Mohd Yusof, a clerk and father of four, said businesses must obtain the necessary certification.

“As the public has taken on a new way of life to battle a pandemic, they too must put in place measures to safeguard their customers’ health.

“Despite the beautiful pictures, I will only order food from reputable restaurants that have standard operating procedures in place, ” he said, adding that the last place he would want to visit was clinics or hospitals at this time.

Due to rising concerns, Support Malaysian Restaurants, a social media page with over 24,000 members, posted a reminder for all food sellers to take an online food safety handling course and undergo typhoid vaccination.

Customers were also reminded to check with the sellers if they have taken steps before making purchases.

Food consultant and training specialist Raymond Ho, who conducts sessions in Penang, Perak, Kuala Lumpur and Pahang, said some of the online food businesses could be roadside hawkers who were not allowed to run their business temporarily.

He said there was a high chance that unlicensed food operators were not vaccinated against typhoid nor aware of the government’s food safety and handling guidelines.

“There is an increased risk of food poisoning and a typhoid outbreak at a time when the healthcare system is already burdened with a pandemic.

“The environment might also be affected with the food vendors not having a proper waste disposal systems like grease traps or have the know-how to dispose of used cooking oil, ” added Ho.

In the Klang Valley, the Petaling Jaya City Council, and the municipalities of Subang Jaya and Kajang have made it compulsory for food businesses and their delivery services to be registered online.

For those under the Sepang Municipal Council’s jurisdiction, only riders need to register but they can only deliver food from licensed hawkers and food premises.

Among the details they have to provide are the name and licence number of employers. All riders have to undergo Covid-19 screening. Only those not registered with food delivery companies need apply.

In Kuala Lumpur, businesses should apply for their licence through Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s e-licensing system.

Consumers are also advised that an illegal online food business can be detected when they provide only a telephone number and cash on delivery terms without an address in the posting.

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