Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Davao Food Safety ordinance still buried in Council records

A proposed Food Safety Ordinance that will ensure the safety of street foods in Davao remains buried in the records of the City Council despite a 2011 study which found out that only 10% of streets foods here are safe for consumption while the rest contained pathogenic bacteria.

The said study (which also included Cagayan de Oro and Laguna) was conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) in 2011 to find ways to improve the sector.

“The last time I heard, the proposed ordinance has undergone first reading in the council under councilor (Bernard) Al-Ag who was then the chair of the Committee on Health,” Food and Drug Administration (FDA) XI Regulatory Officer Arnold G. Alindada said. However, the committee heads for the 17th City Council changed with the Health Committee now under Councilor Joselle Villafuerte.

“I have just talked with councilor Villafuerte and she said she will pull it out, study it again and will push for its approval,” Mr. Alindada said.

Once passed, the Food Safety Ordinance will appropriate a specific budget for the training of sanitary inspectors. While the FDA has jurisdiction only over processed food products and not ready-to-serve food from restaurants and caterers, Mr. Alindada said they are pushing for the approval of the Food Safety Ordinance.

Robert L. Oconer, Chief of the Davao City Environmental Sanitation Office, said he has recommended for the removal of food, fruits and other vendors even before election (May 2013) but both Mayors (former Mayor Sara Z. Duterte and Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte) instructed him to just let them be for as long as they are regulated.

He said they conduct a quarterly education of vendors and are proud that they have followed the rules in terms of wearing hairnets, personal hygiene and complied with the procurement of health certificates.

“Even before the study was made we were already monitoring the food vendors making sure that they comply with the sanitation requirement,” he said. Mr. Oconer said that in his 21 years as a sanitation officer, he has never received a complaint about the food vendors in the city.

But sans the Food Safety Ordinance, Mr. Oconer has issued this warning to all those buying and eating street foods “eat at your own risk.”

Former DOST XI Regional Director and now RECORD Foundation Managing Director Ma. Delia M. Morados said she looks forward to the day when Davao’s street foods will have the same high-level of sanitation comparable to HongKong and Malaysia. She said it would be great to see all the street food vendors gathered in an air conditioned place where the sanitation officers can inspect them regularly.

Ms. Morados is one of the editors of the book “Mindanao Conference on Existing and Emerging Issues on Food Safety” which was launched in the city on July 30, 2013. The book tackles all the food safety issues discussed during the 2008 Conference including the role of the government and the private sectors in ensuring food.

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