‘Hot-dolla’ warning - $100 meals being sold on the streets of downtown Kingston could be dangerous
Persons who may be tempted to purchase cooked food from roadside vendors in the market district in downtown Kingston in the lead-up to the reopening of school are being warned to be careful as they could be putting themselves at risk for food-borne illnesses.
"They have to be very clear about the preparation and sanitation of the things that they are purchasing. They have to be sure that there is no waste water, accumulated garbage, flies and so on," cautioned Everton Baker, director of health services in the Ministry of Health.
"We do carry out inspections but we don't do routine inspections, so we wouldn't capture every vendor in a specific period of time. We do periodic visits in targeted areas like schools, at some construction sites, and certain special events," added Baker.
He said at least 27 cases of food-borne illnesses were reported last year but that represents a fraction of the cases, as most person resort to home remedies whenever they contract any food-borne illnesses.
Baker's comments came as several persons expressed concern about the safety of food being prepared by some roadside vendors in downtown Kingston, especially those dubbed 'hot-dolla' food sellers.
Dubbed 'hot-dolla' based on the usual $100 price tag that is attached to these cooked meals, the number of vendors has increased significantly in recent weeks.
The mainly male vendors can be seen every day at anytime, some in bibs and hats with trays or containers loaded with the cooked boxed meals.
Last week, while some shoppers and vendors gobbled up the hot-dolla lunches, others looked on in scorn, questioning the preparation of the meals, the relatively cheap price, and the length of time during which the food is carried around in the market district all day.
But one hot-dolla vendor who gave his name as Glen argued that persons need not have those fears.
"We deal with cleanliness straightforward. That is what we do. Everything up and ready," said Glen as he pushed his $100 meals on Beckford Street last Wednesday.
"We come out in the morning with breakfast and most of the times we sell off. Look, a lunch time now, me just come out back with 30 food, and see it almost done and me don't catch 15 minutes yet," added Glen.
He said on a good day he and his colleagues can make up to $30,000 from the trade.
According to Glen, he and some five other hot-dolla sellers are supplied by a nearby restaurant, and walking through downtown Kingston is just a means to getting the food to the customers rather than them having to go to the base.
"The whole a town a we customer 'cause we sell from here right (Beckford Street) go back around to Coronation Market," said Glen, as he reeled off the menu for the day.
"We have curry, brown stew, kidney, jack mackerel, chicken chop suey and veggi chunks. It take me 'bout half an hour to sell off this," he said, wrapping up a sale to a satisfied female customer.