CWC food call By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
December 15, 2006

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DIRECTOR of the Analyst Food and Drug Department, Ms. Marilyn Collins yesterday stressed, to food handlers and vendors in the city, the urgent need to improve their operational practices and immediate surroundings and lift their standards of hygiene in preparation for Cricket World Cup 2007 and beyond.

Addressing a sizeable gathering of operators and representatives of food service establishments in Georgetown at a seminar at City Hall, she emphasised the importance of cooking and serving safe and healthy food to persons at all times, and not just for the major CWC tournament to be held in Guyana next year when an influx of visitors is expected here.

“We are looking at creating a new paradigm when it comes to the promotion and maintenance of food safety and hygiene…where we can look at the risks, assess those risks and find ways and means of addressing those,” Collins said.

She stressed that the promotion and maintenance of an exceptionally high standard and quality of food safety and hygiene goes beyond Cricket World Cup and is something that Guyanese should strive for and maintain beyond that major showpiece event.

Among the several specific hygienic issues Collins touched on was the need for Guyanese, especially food handlers and vendors, to develop the habit of “washing their hands”.

She said a recent study by a senior inspector within the Food and Drug Department that entails inspection of several food vending businesses and the hygienic conditions and practices they use, revealed that many food handlers do not wash their hands as often as they should.

“We have food handlers here in Guyana who don’t wash their hands (as often); people right here who will scratch their bodies, dig their nose, put their hands to their mouth and wipe it…and they don’t wash their hands.”

“We need to change this habit,” she said.

Yesterday’s seminar, sponsored by the Mayor and City Council in collaboration with the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department, was a forerunner to several training activities for food handlers and the staff of hotels and restaurants.

The seminar was aimed at sensitising food service managers and representatives to:

** retrain and certify food handlers based on a food hygiene curriculum

** inspect food service facilities in keeping with proposed guidelines

** utilise food safety badges indicative of hygiene training, and

** build partnerships to ensure that Guyana complies with CWC 2007 requirements for food service establishments.

Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy echoed the sentiments of other speakers and participants in imploring the gathering to ensure the provision of safe, healthy and hygienic foods at all time.

Acknowledging that the law supporting the enforcement of good food practices is weak, he promised that a new health protection and promotion bill will be presented in the National Assembly early next year.

This bill, he said, will entail stringent rules and best practices and much stricter penalties for those found to be non-compliant.

Alluding to the well-known notion that surrounds that ‘special Guyanese hospitality’ and the repeated claims of Guyanese being ‘the most hospitable people in the world’, Ramsammy said these will be greatly tested during CWC 2007.

“When people leave our country, they must do so with the feeling that Guyana was a host that was above all else (and) we can’t do that unless the services we offer are of the highest standards,” he asserted.