Food that’s hard to stomach


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 17 Jul 2016

CRAVING for a nice, steaming hot cup of coffee, Lee (not his real name) was left fuming when he took a sip from his drink and found a sheet of tissue within.

The 48-year-old businessman had just landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Singapore, and wanted to grab a quick drink.

“I popped by a fast food joint and ordered a cup of coffee which came in a disposable cup.

“After I took a sip, I stirred the liquid and to my utter disgust, I found a sheet of tissue inside,” says Lee.

The father of two was “very upset” but says it was pointless to complain as the waiters were foreign workers and could not do much to compensate him.

In another stomach-turning incident, Joanne Yap, a company executive, was about to enjoy her favourite wan tan mee at a shop in Petaling Jaya when she found a live worm wriggling inside a jar of pickled chillies.

“At the shop, jars of pickled chillies are placed on each table. When I picked up the one on my table, I noticed something moving inside.

“It turned out to be a worm, still wriggling,” recalls the 27-year-old with disgust.

When she told the waiters about it, they uttered a short apology and walked off with the jar.

Yap says she has not been back since that incident.

She also recalls going for shark fin soup at a renowned restaurant with some of her friends some time back.

Aside from having silvery threads of fin in their bowls, they also found a few rubber bands.

Yap says finding “foreign objects” in food has become a common occurrence and Malaysians seem to have accepted it. “The standard of handling food seems to have dropped. And for many Malaysians, as long as they don’t see the kitchen, it is okay.

“This is because, once you see it, you may not want to go back,” she quips.

Perhaps the apathy of Malaysians towards hygiene compounds the situation, encouraging eateries to become more lackadaisical.

In a recent report by StarMetro, customers at a dirty restaurant in Seri Kembangan continued to tuck into their meals as enforcement officers sealed the premises as it also operated a kitchen on the upper floor without approval.

Malaysian Association of Standards Users chief executive officer Ratna Devi Nadarajan laments that the sensitivity of Malaysians towards food safety needs to be improved, as it takes “two to tango”.

She points out that while finding strands of hair and small bugs in our food is rather common, the Malaysian attitude of scooping it up and continuing with the meal needs to stop.

“As Malaysians, we are passionate about food but people should realise that their health is more important,” she says, adding that online food reviews rarely have hygiene ratings, reflecting poor regard for the matter.

She says “foreign material” found in food are among the common complaints received by the association.

Examples of these “objects” include pieces of glass, metal, plastic, tissue pieces, cockroaches in sambal and lizards in pre-packaged food, including powdered malt and soy sauce.

While such cases are obvious food safety issues, Ratna Devi points out that another aspect that needs to be checked is the unsafe level of chemicals found in food, which is unseen by the naked eye.

“Its effects are not immediate and only felt later. Examples of this are excessive artificial colouring in sauces and the use of recycled oil,” she says, adding that biological contamination includes using rotten ingredients to prepare food.

She urges the authorities to have standardised guidelines on the cleanliness of food premises so that consumers can have the same level of expectations for outlets with the same cleanliness grading.

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