Monday, July 03, 2006

Most LGU officials do not or can not do their job of keeping our food safe

By Likha Cuevas
The Manila Times, July 2, 2006

National laws exist to promote food safety and penalize violations of food-safety regulations. Cabinet departments have large budgets and laddered layers of bureaucrats and personnel assigned to do their food-safety tasks in regional, provincial and municipal offices all over the archipelago.

Ultimately, however, the job of ensuring the safety of foods bought and eaten by the people is not only that of the national government but of city, town and barangay officials.

Sadly, few of them are able to do this job thoroughly and well.

Some LGU officials claim that they have food-safety measures in place to protect their constituents. Under Sanitation Code, LGUs require health and sanitation certificates—issued by the local health service—before giving food handlers and vendors permits to operate. They require handlers and vendors to give urinary and sputum samples, undergo drug tests and medical checkup.

Dr. Raquel Sosayo, Caloocan City health officer, said the city government also requires vendors and food handlers to attend the training sessions it gives before releasing the sanitary permits.

“We also go around the school canteens and inspect ambulant vendors around schools to ensure they do not serve the children unsanitary food,” she said. “We really cannot eliminate street vendors, because the act would have economic repercussions on them and the whole city.”

Quezon City also inspects the premises of applicants for permits. Dr. Antoineta Inumerable, head of the city health department, said her office also conducts food safety seminars for managers and workers of food establishments and factories but “only once.”

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