Blame the slackers! - Several entities failing in their duty to keep rotten meat off the streets of downtown Kingston
The responsibility for preventing unfit meat reaching consumers is a shared one with several stake-holders required to play their part, but The Sunday Gleaner has found that many entities are falling down on the job and putting Jamaicans at risk.
The problem starts with the owners and operators of meat and food processing facilities who are not making provisions for the denaturing and safe final disposal of all waste and other products not fit for human consumption. The slackers include:
The National Solid
Waste Management Authority (NSWMA)
The NSWMA has failed to secure the Riverton City disposal site making unauthorised access possible. The NSWMA also has a duty to encourage and institutionalise a standard operating procedure for the disposal of meats and such products. But with the Riverton City dump being the main control point, it should be monitored, therefore, making this practice impractical.
The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC)
The KSAC has not provided appropriate meat markets to house vendors of meat, fish and poultry. This makes it difficult to carry out proper inspection and monitoring. The KSAC has also failed to strictly enforce the no vending zone especially for potentially hazardous food kinds.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)
The JCF has neglected its duty to seize and dispose all contraband items and arrest and prosecute offenders who continue to prepare and display meat for sale in illegitimate places downtown Kingston, including sidewalks.
The KSAC Public Health Department
This agency is responsible for inspecting all meats and meat products processed at approved legitimate points of production with a view to certifying these products; the condemned portion being disposed of under the direction of the Ministry of Health and South East Regional Health Authority Disposal Policy.
The department is also charged with investigating and taking appropriate action where complaints are received about unfit food being sold; certifying butchers and their associates; inspecting abattoir and slaughter places; and monitoring major meat production and processing plants.
In the meantime, the public health department says it has launched a probe into the sale of meat discarded at the Riverton City dump on the streets of downtown Kingston.
This comes weeks after a Sunday Gleaner exposé into the unhygienic practice where persons seeking to save a dollar, were buying low-price meat from vendors in downtown unaware that the meat had been recovered from the dump despite the foul odour and other obvious discolouration.
"An investigation was launched in response to the recent report of meat scavenged from Riverton City Disposal Site being sold. Periodic unannounced interventions will continue in the downtown and other market districts in Kingston & St Andrew," the health department said in an email response to Sunday Gleaner queries.
The public health department admitted that if meat dumped at Riverton was, in fact, scavenged and resold for consumption, persons would be exposed to serious health risk.
"Meats disposed of at the Riverton Landfill can be contaminated with biological, chemical, physical or infectious hazardous substances. If meat is not handled appropriately, in terms of preparation, processing and storage, it can cause serious illnesses and can even be fatal."
But the public health depart-ment argued that when condemned meats are discarded under the direction of the Ministry of Health/South East Regional Health Authority Disposal Policy guidelines are in place to protect the public.
"In all instances, the disposal protocol was strictly adhered to; hence, there was no report of condemned meats entering the food chain," said the public health department.
"However, meat that may be contained in the regular waste generated from residential and commercial operations are solely the responsibility of
the resident/owner/operator in collaboration with the NSWMA to ensure the safe and appropriate disposal of such waste and to prevent access by scavengers."
The public health department said while its inspectors have so far found no evidence to support reports that meat being sold downtown Kingston is scavenged from Riverton there is still cause for concern.
"On two occasions, within the last 18 months, we have seized and condemned a large quantity of assorted food items in the downtown Kingston area," said the public health department.