Itinerant vendors frustrating Manchester Public Health Dept
According to the Manchester Public Health Department, there are more than 1,000 food establishments in the parish, with approximately 80 per cent satisfactorily meeting the operational standards.
However, while the health department can close these establishments if they do not comply with sanitary regulations, they seem to have no control over the removal of sidewalk vendors who are operating under unsanitary conditions.
Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell is questioning the authority of the Public Health Department in taking action against vendors, particularly jerked food vendors and those who handle unpackaged foods.
At a recent municipal sitting, Mitchell reported that oftentimes when corporation officers confront these people, they will present a food handler's permit. However, he was adamant that that could not be the only requirement.
Councillor of Mandeville Jones Oliphant, whose division is in immediate focus, added that the vendors must be guided.
"We cannot assume these people know what to do. They need to be educated, have some pamphlets printed and handed out to them," he said.
In her response, Deputy Chief Public Health Inspector Dahlia Plunkett said, "I do accept that we can do more re-education ... the health department can prosecute them physically, but we can't remove them ... . We can dump the food, but we can't prevent them from returning," said Plunkett.
She added that the corporation's intervention is crucial in having these itinerant vendors removed from the spaces.
"... It is our ultimate responsibility to deal with these persons. However, there is a greater challenge because when we prosecute, it does not dictate where they can operate. They can still move from place to place, from point to point. We don't have that authority to take them off the sidewalks, and I'm saying this needs to be a joint operation," said Plunkett.
Mitchell questioned why physical building are sometimes ordered closed, but individuals selling on the sidewalk get the opportunity to return whenever they feel.
" ... In the same way your veterinary public health inspectors can go to the abbattoirs and the meat is not good and you dump it, if there is an itinerant vendor on the road cooking soup and if he or she has not met the public health standards, why can't it be done?"
The mayor said he cannot send his officers to remove these vendors without being armed with the necessary information.
"At the end of the day, I am not sending my officers out there to do some work without the protection of the local board of health," said Mitchell.
Councillor of the Craighead division, Omar Miller, sought answers on the basic requirements that must be met as a vendor, but could not be provided with same.
"People have to live, but at the end of the day, we have to work together and get persons who are vending under one umbrella."