Businesses must meet consumer expectations


Errant businesses, especially when it comes to hygiene and the environment, should face the full force of the law. — Filepic

EXPECTATION is a big thing, and if not met, it can result in much disappointment, especially when it comes to hygiene and environmental matters.

Some even view this as a betrayal of trust. Take the food industry for instance, when I sit down in a restaurant, I expect the premises to be clean and rodent-free.

I expect utensils to be properly washed, and food prepared in the kitchen in a hygienic manner and by staff in proper gear, who are healthy and have been inoculated as per the local authorities’ regulations.

Food storage is crucial in ensuring health and safety.

However, based on information from Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) health officers, this is where many restaurant operators get it wrong.

Meat, for example, must be stored separately from other food items to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.

Chemicals such as detergent and insecticide should never be placed near food items.

This also applies to manufacturers, especially those supplying essential healthcare items.

One would assume that such companies would at least have a basic SOP on workplace hygiene, whereby workers are attired accordingly, and their sleeping quarters should meet minimum standards.

Sadly, this is not the case at some factories in the Klang Valley, as journalists covering a raid on a glove factory in Selangor found out recently.

The factory operator was eventually fined for failure to comply with Covid-19 preventive measures.

But what came as a bigger shock was the surrounding area that was filled with rubbish, including thousands of discarded used gloves.

This was a clear violation of multiple regulations, including the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

In my experience as a journalist who has followed similar inspections, many companies that get caught will pay the fine, clean up their act for the time being and are back in business a few months later.

This is also the case when it comes to eateries that receive closure notices for violating hygiene rules.

The owners often seek the intervention of politicians and I know of a few that are notorious for doing this.

It forces some food inspectors to let these eatery operators off the hook with just a fine.

And if they made a “show” of cleaning up their act, they would be allowed to resume operations even before the notice of closure expires.

Some local councils are reluctant to reveal the names of errant eateries and share photographs of these dirty premises taken during raids with the media.

As someone who has seen some of the photos taken at established and popular restaurants in the city, it is not a pretty sight.

You only need to browse the DBKL Facebook page to see photos of noodles, bread, tauhu, chicken, and yong tau foo factories that were raided last year and issued closure notices.

The nauseating images are made worse when you realise that the offenders supply to markets and restaurants in the city.

As a consumer, I want to know about restaurants and other businesses that are found violating environmental, food and safety regulations.

We have a right to expect the food we consume and products we use are not only safe and of good quality, but are hygienically produced -– from those who grow the produce to the ones that prepare them for public consumption.

Establishments that exploit their workers, pollute rivers or cut corners for profit should not be supported.

It is about time local authorities establish a “name and shame” website and list operators who violate basic laws.

Just like the five-star ratings accorded to restaurants and other businesses on travel websites, the councils should rate them accordingly on this website.

The public, including investors, must be made aware.

Merely issuing fines makes no difference to the operators.

Being added to a “name and shame” website will be far more effective than a fine.

Remember what happened to a certain restaurant in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, not too long ago?

When videos of their staff washing dirty dishes using water from a pothole went viral, it ended up being the first restaurant in Kuala Lumpur to have its licence revoked.

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