Careless food outlets major source of poisoning: CMC
The increasing number of wayside eating houses and fast food outlets in the city and suburbs and also in rural areas pose a danger to peoples’ lives with a significant rise in the number of food poisoning cases and other illnesses connected to bad food, said Colombo Municipal Council’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam.
“There are more than 1,000 bathkades to star class hotels in Colombo and many small roadside boutiques outside Colombo. So food poisoning is possible wherever you get food from,” said Dr. Kariyawasam.
Even though the CMC has received complaints of around 20 cases of food poisoning, Dr. Kariyawasam said many do not complain or inform the Public Health Department.
“In many high class hotels and fast food outlets these cases are not revealed as the management cover them up by compensations once the complaint is made directly to the hotel,” he said.
“We issue notices and take around 100 persons annually to courts for the offence of selling unhygienic food but it is impossible to watch each and every outlet,” he said.
Dr. Kariyawasam explained that the city’s underground water is mostly polluted yet many eating houses and restaurants tap this source for their use.
In 2006, even some supermarkets were detected selling out-dated and contaminated food while some tended to re-label the date-expired food products for re-selling.
Dr. Kariyawasam advised the public to be more careful when buying food products.
“Most people in the city and the suburbs prefer ‘Kottu’, without bothering how it is prepared. Most of these cooks are unhygienic and often do not even wash their hands. Even the ingredients are not washed. Handling of unwashed eggs is a sure way of spreading Salmonella bacteria common in most food poisoning,” added Dr. Kariyawasam.
“Trained food handlers mostly go abroad leaving the less qualified here. There should be a system where every food handler should go through a medical examination and be certified,” he said.
The CMC hopes to grade hotels and restaurants according to practices, quality of the ingredients, hygiene, environment etc. within this month.
The CMC Public Health Dept. can be reached on telephone No: 2676161 and assures quick response.
Dr. Shantha de Silva from the National Poison Information Centre of the Health Ministry explained that micro-organism like bacteria and salmonella, chemical reactions in metal utensils, natural toxins like manioc and chemicals like food additives and colouring may cause food poisoning. These could be avoided through basic preventive measures, he said.
“There is no proper mechanism to monitor the vegetables and fruits pesticides,” he said adding that it was timely to introduce ways to do so.
Meanwhile, The National Poison Information Centre is to organise a Poison Prevention Week in May for the first time in Sri Lanka.