RAT skeletons and dung, dogs running around the food production facilities, plastic bags disintegrating in soy sauce fermentation vats and layers of filth caked on storage tanks and bins.
These were among the things that made health inspectors turn green with disgust when they raided four food factories run ‘the old way’ in mainland Penang.
State Health Department and Seberang Prai City Council officers raided facilities making grated coconut paste (kerisik), coconut milk, noodles and soy sauce.
The kerisik factory in Jalan Ara Kuda, Bukit Mertajam, was ordered to close for 14 days to clean up and slapped with a fine.
As health inspectors strode into the kerisik factory with press members watching, workers who were believed to be foreigners scrambled away into the nearby oil palm plantation.
The health team found dogs running around the production area and the machines for cooking and grating coconuts were thickly caked with dried coconut paste.
Workers were in T-shirts and shorts and had nothing to cover their heads and beards with.
At the coconut milk factory in Mengkuang Titi, they found skeletons of rats while at the noodle factory in Jalan Tanah Liat, they found rat droppings by the handfuls.
At the soy sauce factory in Jalan Mengkuang, the master blender tried in earnest to explain that his method was “to enhance the flavour and make it taste better”.
The man explained that his soy sauce recipe was 45 years old.
Firewood was still used at the factory and in some vats, rocks were thrown in to weigh down various plant matter to keep them submerged in the liquids.
Health inspectors were not satisfied because inside the vats of fermenting soy beans were perforated plastic bags of red dates.
As the plastic bags tore when touched, the inspectors sternly asked the man how long he had been reusing the bags and if there were any other material that could be used instead of plastic.
The Health Department’s environmental health officer Mohd Wazir Khalid said at the noodle factory, the packaging carried the halal logo, but he felt doubtful even though the factory owner displayed a copy of the halal certificate.
He said based on the level of cleanliness, the factory should not be eligible for halal certification and he would alert the relevant authorities in charge of it.
The total compounds issued on the four factories amounted to RM9,000, and the factory owners were required to clean their respective premises before being allowed to operate again.
Mohd Wazir said the RM9,000 comprised RM7,500 issued by the Health Department while council slapped compounds amounting RM1,500 for various offences.
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