The Consumer Council of Fiji is warning Fijian restaurants to lift their standards after recent market surveillance found rampant poor hygiene practices that are placing consumers at risk.
The Council inspected 74 restaurants in the Central, Western and Northern divisions from 27th – 31st May, and found numerous cases where proper hygiene practices were not followed and sub quality food were being sold to consumers. During inspections, the Council found presence of pests like cockroaches and dead flies, foul smells, greasy stove hoods, counters and kitchen walls, exposed rubbish bins, and absence of hand towels/tissues and soap/handwash dispenser for customers. There were also numerous unsafe handling practices, such as hairnets and gloves not worn by staff, exposed food, food warmers not maintained at ideal temperatures and food placed near rubbish bins and on floors.
Apart from hygiene practices, issues like non-disclosure of current food prices and failing to display business and health licenses in the premises were observed as well.
The most recent complaint received at the Council was of the presence of cockroach in a meal from a prominent eatery in Suva. From 2014 to date, the Council has received 148 complaints against restaurants, fast food takeaways and cafes with a total monetary value of $2,803.83. These complaints included restaurants infested with pests like cockroaches, flies and maggots, and servings of stale and improperly cooked food.
“It is surprising to note that some restaurants still have not been graded despite Food Establishment (Grading) Regulation coming into effect in 2011. It is also extremely worrying that restaurants that have been graded under the Restaurant Grading System are not complying with the requirements,” Consumer Council of Fiji CEO Seema Shandil said.
“The Council calls on restaurant operators to ensure that they adhere to hygiene standards and do not place the health and safety of consumers at risk. There is absolutely no excuse for restaurants to compromise hygiene standards at the expense of consumers. Consumers’ health and safety are paramount and should not be compromised through unhygienic practices,” Mrs Shandil concluded.
The Council is also calling on Municipal Councils to ensure that all restaurants are graded and comply with the required grading standards. The Council still maintains that restaurants that do not meet public expectations and continuously receive low grades should have their license cancelled.
Consumers who face similar issues with restaurants services and food are encouraged to lodge their complaints with the Council’s National Consumer Helpline Toll Free Number, 155.