Food safety still a top priority

PETALING JAYA: More than RM600,000 worth of fines have been dished out by the Health Ministry to send the message that the government is serious about preventing lapses in food safety and hygiene, even if incidents of food poisoning dropped by 57% this year.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said food safety, especially at marketplaces, was of paramount importance and traders and management must always ensure the cleanliness of food and raw materials.

“Various sources of contamination, such as from microorganisms and chemicals, can occur if the handling of raw materials and food is not done properly,” he said in his speech at the Clean and Safe Market Awards ceremony yesterday.

He added that the ministry, through its Food Safety and Quality Programme, was responsible for ensuring that food and raw materials complied with the Food Act 1983 and its regulations.

From the ministry’s monitoring activities between 2018 and August 2021, over 45,000 samples of meat, fish, vegetables and fruits in the local market were analysed, he said.“Of this number, 2,654 or 5.9% of the samples were found to be non-compliant with the Food Act 1983 and the Food Regulations 1985,” said Khairy, who added that a total of RM661,445.00 worth of compound notices were issued to traders found guilty of the offence.

He also revealed that in Malaysia, instances of food poisoning were still at a controllable level, with data showing that they dropped from 288 episodes nationwide last year to 123 this year as at September.

“Due to this, the ministry will continue to implement various promotional activities and interventions to increase the level of food safety and prevent food poisoning incidents,” he said.

Following the World Food Safety Day 2020 theme, which focused on Safe Food in Markets, the ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Division, in collaboration with the Housing and Local Government Ministry, had also organised the national-level Clean and Safe Markets Competition 2020/2021, said Khairy.

In the contest, Kuala Lumpur’s Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) Market took first place in the public marketplace category, while in the private category, Lotus’s Cheng store in Melaka took the No.1 spot.

In Category A, which was for public markets under the management of associations within the administrative area of local authorities, the TTDI market emerged as the winner among 12 finalists, while the Wirawati Market in Kuala Lumpur and the Tasek Raja Market in Pasir Mas, Kelantan, came in second and third respectively.

In Category B, which was for private markets under supermarket management, Lotus’s Cheng store in Melaka took first place, while the second place went to AEON Klebang in Ipoh, and third place to AEON Queensbay Mall, Penang.

Khairy said the competition was aimed at increasing awareness among traders on the importance of food safety and cleanliness.

“It is also to give due recognition to the market management that have successfully managed the aspects of food hygiene and safety with excellence, promoted good hygiene practices and succeeded in ensuring new norms are always adhered to,” he added.

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