Michael Kimberley, Thulani Gqirana and Danre Erasmus
FOOD safety rating company Eatsafe has called for Nelson Mandela Bay restaurants that do not comply with hygiene standards to be shut down.
The call comes after secret municipal hygiene reports – which the municipality was forced to hand over after a Public Access to Information Act (Paia) bid by Weekend Post – revealed that 1 027 violations were recorded in more than 350 outlets that sold or served food to the public last year.
These included rat droppings, cockroach infestations, staff having no water to wash their hands and storage of rotten meat in the fridge. In one case, a shop owner was even instructed to “wash” himself every day by a health inspector, while another was told to change his clothes on a daily basis.
A majority of establishments were caught making basic blunders like mixing raw and cooked chicken in a freezer, which can cause salmonella.
Eatsafe director Judy Bird said: “If people actually saw the state of some of the food outlets they eat at or buy food from they would never return. They would be really shocked.”
Eatsafe helps food outlets meet minimum standards of food sanitation and hygiene in South Africa.
She said outlets with the worst violations should be shut down in the Bay.
“They are playing with people’s lives. It is like the only licence they are interested in is a licence to kill.”
Bird said cockroaches, rodents, mixing cooked and raw chicken, and using the same chopping boards for different meats were “potential health risks”.
“The more conscious contraventions like these should result in a shutdown if the establishment does not confirm to safe standards.”
An analysis of the 1 800 pages that make up the reports also shows:
- Wash basins are always broken and kitchen sinks missing in a number of outlets
- Leaking and damaged roofs Swarms of flies Dirty yard areas Supermarkets selling outdated and even spoiled food
- People sleeping and smoking inside the shop
- Paint peeling off dirty walls and blood-stained ceilings
- Pest control measures not in place
- Rotten meat stored in refrigerators
- Fridge temperatures set too high
- Prewarmers set too low
- Contaminated cleaning cloths
- Cooks using the same chopping board for raw meat and vegetables
- Dirty utensils, pots, pans
- Disinfectant not being used to clean kitchen floors.
Health inspection reports for 2011 revealed 611 violations in about 800 outlets around the Bay.
Weekend Post initially requested a copy of the hygiene reports in September last year, but the request was declined by then acting municipal manager Themba Hani, who inexplicably claimed he could not hand the reports over because they were not in the possession of the legal department.
After obtaining legal advice, Weekend Post successfully appealed the decision. Head of the municipality’s legal department Mhleli Tshamase apologised for the initial delay in handing over the reports, saying staff were “under the erroneous but bona fide belief that the said record could not be released in that it contained privilege and or confidential information about third parties”.
Weekend Post was finally handed the documents earlier this month.
However, the municipality’s public health director, Dr Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni, was unavailable to comment on the reports this week, and public health committee chairwoman and Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Pat Ndlovu said she could not comment on the violations.
However, a municipal health inspector – who cannot be named because of possible reprisals – said diners would be shocked about certain upmarket restaurants in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“Some are terrible, obviously, but you get good and bad.”
The inspector said cheaper outlets in townships were cleaner than some upmarket establishments around Port Elizabeth.
Bird said the reported violations showed that even the most primitive efforts at ensuring hygiene were not being used in the Bay.
This is a version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, February 23, 2013. For the full story get the complete Weekend Post and The Herald newspaper, including comics, classifieds, crosswords and back editions in our e-Edition