Putting welfare of consumers at risk

Editorial, Normal

ALL businesses, foreign and local, operating in Papua New Guinea have a responsibility to the people to ensure that best and fair trade practices are applied in their operations.
This responsibility is paramount, especially in the food processing and preparation, hospitality and catering sectors where health and hygienic practices of the highest order must be applied to ensure that the customers are served the best, free of all contaminations, for immediate consumption or storage for later use.
We raise this concern following the discovery by PNG Customs during a routine operation last December in Porgera, Enga province, where a foreign-owned bakery prepared scones near a dog cage that had animal waste on the floor.
Customs reports said it was shocking to find that a food preparation area also had a dog living in the same quarters, with excreta and urine littering the floor.
The floor was also filthy with dust and dirt and had cockroaches and flies.
Dog waste was also found on flour bags stored for future use.
And the freshly baked scones were left on the dirty floor to cool off.
Indeed, these findings paint a shocking picture of fast food hygiene in PNG.
It is simply unacceptable that such unhealthy practices had been allowed to continue for so long, in an environment where hygiene and safety should be paramount.
Customs officers were shocked when they saw that food was being prepared in the vicinity of animal waste and that “dogs were also sleeping on the very floor used to mix though for the scones”.
In a report, officers said: “The dog cage is just between the two ovens and the floor is literally covered with animal waste and the room stinks horribly”.
“Freshly baked scones, to be sold to locals were also found on the filthy floor filled with dust, dirt, cockroaches and flies, and also had dirty laundry hung in the room,” the report said.
The bakery is part of a retail outlet owned and operated by foreign nationals.
“I was appalled to see the conditions which these so called investors are operating their businesses in … they have no respect for our people’s health,” Customs Commissioner Gary Juffa, said. 
Mr Juffa has since called for immediate action to be instituted by the provincial government and health authorities against these retailers, once he furnishes a report to them.
He expressed dismay at this irresponsible business practice that is putting the health of the locals at risk.
Informing the relevant authorities is the first step, the next step Mr Juffa wants undertaken is for stronger laws to be enacted that will have “such irresponsible persons be penalised and removed from PNG”.
“We have to protect our people, we cannot stand by and let bad investors come and mistreat our people,” he stressed.
Indeed, because simple people without knowing the unhygienic conditions of the baking area come and buy scones are putting their lives at risk. 
Customs said most shops and fast food outlets searched were similarly in bad condition and unfit to cater for food preparation.
Most Papua New Guineans in towns and cities opt for scones for breakfast and the findings show that many people have and are already vulnerable to infection.
With the recent outbreaks of dysentery and cholera people do not need the added risk of food-borne bacteria spread by lax standards.
Many businesses view business ethics only in terms of administrative compliance with legal standards and adherence to rules and regulations.
But it goes deeper, and that is ensuring that whatever the end product is, it must be safe for the consumer. While the paramount responsibility is with the businesses to ensure they religiously apply safe and hygienic food preparation practices it is high time, health inspectors take their job seriously.
They must frequent fast foods and places that prepare food for immediate consumption to ensure best food preparation practices are applied.
Consumers have a right to know how their food is being prepared.
Hygiene standards must be made public for the consumer to know and make informed choices.