With the recent news of restaurant closure due to poor maintenance of cleanliness, it is vital that everyone including the customers is well aware of the risk they posed should they be any instances of a dirty restaurant.
Restaurants. The place where people come to dine and drink. Plus, it’s the perfect place for a good old catch-up session or just to enjoy the day with your family and friends. As Malaysian, we take our food very seriously. It’s so serious to the point of British chef saying that the chicken rendang is not “crispy” and let’s not even go to the point of the best bah kut teh or chicken rice can be located in Singapore only. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that statement because it may just set every foodie Malaysian on fire.
However, when it comes to food safety and the hygiene that a restaurant carries, not many are aware of the hazardous and harmful effects it can have on our body. If you enter every restaurant, you’ll find the sign of the grades that are certified and checked thoroughly by the Malaysian city councils. If a dining place reaches the criteria, they’ll be graded to A, all the way to grade D – result in temporary closure by the authorities. These grades are here to make the customers aware of the restaurant’s cleanliness and always to ensure the operators maintain or improve the hygiene up to its standards. Those with less stellar grades choose to remain silent to avoid customers from having to eat at their restaurant.
The main regulators and enforcers in food safety are the Ministry of Health – EU recognized Competent Authority for HACCP Certification, Local Authorities, Customs for import and export activities and also religious authorities to make sure the halal status is there in certain areas. According to a article on Symposium “Ensuring Food Safety: An Important Challenge Today” by Ashok Philips, the main aims of this legislation (The Food Act 1983) are to protect the public against food-related hazards and fraud, as well as to promote and motivate the preparation, handling, distribution, sale and consumption of safe, high-quality food.
For the grading system, here is how it is graded
Grade A: 75% and above
Grade B: 50-75%
Grade C: 49% and below.
Among the criteria taken into account during the grading assessment were cleanliness, the safety of the food supply and storage, equipment, disposal of food waste, uniforms, overall comfort and also pest control and general hygiene.
There have been many cases of how a restaurant is forced to shut down as it was too overwhelming and deemed dangerous to serve to the customers.
Case Number One:
This famous RM1 nasi lemak shop in Subang Jaya named Restoran Warisan Sambal Opah attracts many customers and sometimes it would be so difficult to get a place as it will be packed during peak hours. Just last year alone, they came under scrutiny and authorities had no choice but to temporarily close down the place as they found the place to be infested with cockroaches scurrying around the food and beverage counter and rat droppings all over after a surprise raid.
What’s even more shocking is the fact that the workers in that restaurant have neglected their own personal hygiene and been practising bad food handling methods and even using the back lane to prepare food that is to be sold to the customers. According to the Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya (MPSJ), this famous restaurant had scored less than 50% during the health and cleanliness checks. They were slapped with a compound of RM1,000 each.
Case Number Two;
Probably the recent restaurant which went viral that shut down is the famous Raj’s Banana Leaf Bangsar. This place that was once celebrated for its glorious Mamak food and Indian food cuisine has temporarily gone down the drain. Literally. It all happened just last May 2018 where a viral video of a restaurant staff was caught washing the plates using the murky water in the puddle. The video sparked outrage and utter disgust among the netizens on social media. The Facebook video has garnered over 18,000 shares and soon after the video went viral, the restaurant’s management released a statement to apologise to their customers and the incident in the video was because it’s a “newly recruited staff”. About 15 officers from DBKL and Federal Territory Health Department were seen and will remain closed until they adhere to the regulations.
After this issue that happened in Bangsar, more restaurants were closed down temporarily as well.
Case Number Three:
Face to Face Noodle House in Damansara suffered the same fate as Raj’s Banana Leaf and closure notices were attached to the roller shutters. The restaurant had reportedly breached several violations as they have dirty kitchens, rat droppings and growth of bacteria and fungus in between the cracked tiles. This posed a health hazard and will be opened once they pass MBPJ’s cleanliness criteria.
Case Number Four:
Restoran Gasing, Sri Paandi Restaurant, and Raju’s restaurant along Jalan Chantek 5/13 in Petaling Jaya were forced to shut down following a morning raid by MBPJ health officers on 5th June. This three places provided unhygienic practices after officers found rat droppings, and cockroaches inside cupboards, on the floor, and even in one of the eatery’s refrigerators. Other violations were put into action when the dumping of wastewater into the drain had been performed too. However, both the banana leaf restaurants- Raju’s Restaurant and Sri Paandi was allowed to continue operations after two days, said MBPJ councillor Sean Oon who was in charge of the raid previously. Restoran Gasing however, is still closed for renovation works.
Hope some of this cases educate the customers, readers, food operators and staff workers in the Food and Beverage line to take food safety and cleanliness more important and to ensure that everyone is happy and healthy.
Practices of safe cleaning
To avoid further contamination of the body, it always great to take precaution whether if you’re a staff worker, owner of a food and beverage place or just customers. Food safety is not something to be taken lightly and requires the cooperation of everyone involved. Here are some of the steps you can take to ensure you’re happy and healthy.
- Always wash your hands.
This is certainly a common courtesy and gesture for everyone to do when anything involved in food. If you have that mentality your hands are always clean, time for a wake-up call. According to research from University of Colorado at Boulder, on average we carry 3,200 bacteria from 150 different species on our hands. Even the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently called for children and young people to be shown how to wash their hands properly to halt the spread of harmful bacteria. Most importantly, our fingertips and underneath our nails are also essential in paying more attention to them when washing our hands. It doesn’t take long to wash one’s hands so practice this good habit and you’ll be on your way to a happier lifestyle.
- Sanitizing those hands!
A lot of people have felt that rubbing the alcohol-based product on your hands could cause more harm to an individual and the people around it. That’s not the case here. Handwashing and hand sanitizers can have a profound impact on improving hand hygiene and reducing the spread of undesirable germs and viruses. In two separate studies, it was found that hand washing and sanitizing could reduce diarrhoea illness episodes by about 30% and the risk of respiratory infection by 16%. It’s vital to make sure the process is as simple and accessible to everyone so there wouldn’t be any excuse to not take care of yourself.
- Hair and Nails Be Secured
If you’re sitting and your food arrives, and you spot a massive strand of hair in your food, what would you do? I know I will send it back to the kitchen and definitely would have ruined my mood. Hence, it’s super important for kitchen staff to wear a hairnet to prevent mishaps from the example situation from ever happening. For waiter and waitress, hair must be up to prevent it from falling into the food. When it comes to nails, uniform, apron, hands and especially nails must always be clean. This includes, strictly no nail polish. Nail varnish may chip and tiny pieces may end up in food or on equipment, utensils and food wrappings. Since nail polish is a chemical, hence it’s best to preserve the sanctity of personal hygiene.
- Maintain quality of the food properly
Kitchen staff and home cookers, always no matter what, wash your greens and other sources of food where bacteria is welcomed anytime. Before eating or preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, wash the produce under cold running tap water to remove any lingering dirt. This reduces bacteria that may be present. However, please do not wash your fruits and vegetables with detergent or soap. Also, it’s crucial to highlight that when preparing fruits and vegetables, remove yourself if you have any damaged or bruised areas because bacteria that cause illness can thrive in those places.
- Establish a cleaning schedule
A food safe food service begins with a facility that is clean and good repair. It is important to eliminate hard to clean areas and faulty equipment. Get rid of dirty surroundings that will attract bugs and other pests. This includes cleaning the walls, sweep, vacuum the floors, clean hood filters, removing the trash daily and garbage must be kept away from food preparation areas. Pests are probably one of the leading factors people getting sick after eating in a restaurant. Therefore, have ongoing pest prevention program and regular pest control by a licensed pest control operator. Remember to always clean grease traps to prevent drain blockage which causes an unpleasant odour that may attract pests. They may also enter the building through gaps in floors or walls. In a nutshell, cleanliness and maintenance are keys to preventing pest infestation.
Food safety requires dedication and commitment but in the long run, it will be worth. Remember the important steps above, educate others and always keep on the lookout.