NIBONG TEBAL: A bean curd skin (foo chuk) factory that has been operating illegally at Sungai Jawi here for around four decades was raided by Health Department investigators, who were shocked at what they found.
After they gained entry yesterday, the place was not only swarming with flies, but the carcass of a dead kitten was also found lying mere metres from where workers prepared foo chuk for drying.
When Penang Health Department environmental health, food safety and quality officer Mohd Wazir Khalid asked a worker why the carcass was left unattended, she answered that “the kitten just died there” and they were “too busy to remove it”.
Mohd Wazir said investigators conducted a month-long surveillance of the factory, which was fenced up and guarded by dogs, before taking action.
“We found the factory, comprising four buildings, managed to avoid local authority action and had been operating for about 40 years, with the latest building erected eight years ago.
“The land it is on is zoned as agricultural land under a temporary occupation licence, and it does not have a food factory permit, ” he said.
“The swarm of flies is due to chicken farms being nearby. They use wooden planks as dividers in the processing trays for soy milk, and this can lead to bacterial growth and the presence of wood splinters in the foo chuk.
“The concrete pens from the former pigsty operation here can still be found within the factory, and cats and dogs wandering around the food processing areas can cause animal hair and more bacteria to contaminate the foo chuk, ” Mohd Wazir added.
“We urge the local authority to take stern action against this illegal operation. Our biggest concern is that this factory has been operating for such a long time.”
He said the foo chuk are packed under different brands as they are produced by different family members, each managing their own production lines on the factory grounds.“The products are sold in local markets and sent to neighbouring states, ” he said.
For failing to ensure proper hygiene, the factory was slapped with five compounds totalling RM8,500, and ordered to clean up.
“Follow-up checks will be conducted within three weeks, and if conditions do not improve, we will issue them a notice to close under Section 11 of Food Act 1983, ” added Mohd Wazir.
When contacted, Seberang Prai City Council mayor Datuk Rozali Mohamud confirmed that the land in question is zoned for agriculture under the Penang Structure Plan 2030.
“No planning permission was approved for the site, ” he said.