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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

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A shocking discovery

Many of our readers no doubt would have received with shock and consternation the main story in yesterday’s edition of the Daily News which shed light on the horrible state of Colombo city’s hotels and eating houses. Today these so-called eateries have mushroomed in every corner of the city with a good majority of them purveyors of disease and epidemics. It is time that a comprehensive probe is carried out into the operation of these catering services before the situations gets out of hand.

According to CMC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Prasad Kariyawasam over 60 percent of the Colombo city hotels flout the Food Act and established food practices. They have failed to obtain medical certificates on workers’ personal hygiene and continue to violate established food safety practices.

According to him out of 550 food outlets in Colombo (from Five Star hotels to eateries in Pettah) only 220 have obtained certification from health authorities to ply their trade. The most shocking disclosure however is that a majority of hotel workers were found to be afflicted with typhoid, diarrhoea and hepatitis and other diseases.

We are at a loss to understand how the city health authorities allowed such a state of affairs to continue considering that by his own admission. Dr Kariyawasam says that several years back a CMC study found that 30 percent of all hotel employees were affected with hepatitis and undergoing health checks had been made compulsory for employees of food outlets. Were these health checks carried out with due diligence and continuously? Certainly not, judging by the latest revelations.

Little wonder that Colombo city has topped the list as the centre with the highest incidents of epidemics such as dengue for several years running. True, the city of Colombo has its unique problems unlike other districts. To begin with there is a floating population of over one million people within the Colombo city at any given time. Needless to say the demand to cater to such a population will naturally tend to overlook health concerns and standards of hygiene.

Also ignored are standards of recruitment of employees with a majority of them hired on a short-term hire and fire basis by hotel owners taking advantage of their economic plight and not paying any attention to their health conditions. A majority of these employees naturally given their poverty and deprivation and consequent lack of healthcare and medical attention harbour diverse ailments and diseases posing a grave danger to the public patronising city hotels and eating houses.

Compounding the situation is the present day tendency of most households working in city to ‘eat out’ given the pressures of work and caught up as they are in the perennial rat race of today all of which means boon time for the hoteliers and eating houses who cannot afford to indulge in such niceties such as looking into the hygiene and medical records of their recruits.

Today it is all too common to see so-called eating houses lying cheek by jowl against each other in cramped space sometimes abutting filthy drains and gullies in the Pettah and Fort with bare bodied help sweating it out in squalid kitchens. Needless to say little or no attention paid to the quality and hygienic standards of the food served.

The task before Dr Kariyawasam is indeed an unenviable one to keep tabs on each and every one of these joints given the dearth of staff not to mention the political clout wielded by some of these hoteliers restraining him from action. But act he must if the city of Colombo is not to be turned into centre that is notorious for breeding diseases and epidemics. Particularly at this juncture when Sri Lanka and the city capital will be the focus of world attention in the aftermath of the three decades of war and the heavy influx of tourist and investors set to descend on our shores.

In this regard the decision to test levels of food handling and food preparation as well as the workers’ medical condition together with the requirement that all hotel employees undergo laboratory tests is a move in the right direction. The move also to lay down regulations with regard to lunch packets arriving in the city from outside and to check all mobile food outlets will no doubt help in the minimising of health risks to the public.

With the city of Colombo set to undergo a massive transformation it is only but logical that not only the old edifices are subject to change but also other aspects that has given the city a negative image such as its notoriety as an epidemic carrier through squalid food outlets to name only one of the causes that today mar the city’s once beautiful landscape. Hopefully the positive moves taken by the CMC medical officer would lead to making Colombo a city free of health risks by ensuring clean hygienic catering centres for the public.

‘All Sri Lankans have become cultivators now’:

Agriculture, soul of the country - Minister Mahinda Yapa

There are various types of programmes such as Divi Neguma, Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu in progress in the country and the government always tries to encourage people by providing fertilizer, seeds and technical support. It is necessary to pay our utmost attention to farmers in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, as they didn’t have proper guidance during the past three decades.

Full Story

Reflections on foolishness, wisdom and those deserving of honour

I have been reading and reflecting on the Mangala Sutta of late, i.e. the Discourse on Blessings and found that even the simplest line from the Buddhist scriptures inspires immensely. My wife, a keener student of the doctrine and who frequently listens to bana on the radio, made an interesting observation: ‘Yes, and it’s all linked and should be reflected on keeping in mind other pertinent and salient elements of the dhamma (doctrine); the Mangala Sutta should be read in conjunction with the Parabhava Sutta (the Discourse on Downfall)’.

Full Story

Ramadan:

Fasting month for Muslims

Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of the Islamic year and fasting during the month is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is obligatory for all healthy adults of the Islamic faith to fast between the hours of dawn and sunset. In Holy Quran Sura 2: verse 185 said that; The month of Ramadan is the month when the Quran was sent down as guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and the criterion by which to distinguish right from wrong.

Full Story

 

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