Health inspector: Only five per cent of St James’ food vendors have permits
THE ST JAMES Municipal Corporation (StJMC) has ordered the parish’s local health authorities to immediately address reports that only a small number of food vendors who operate in St James are duly equipped with food handler’s permits, in order to protect the public from food-borne illnesses.
Montego Bay Acting Mayor Richard Vernon gave the order while chairing the StJMC’s monthly meeting on Thursday, after St James’ acting chief public health inspector, Sherika Lewis, revealed that only 30 out of approximately 600 food vendors in the parish have food handler’s permits.
“In terms of persons selling food in Montego Bay, and I am referring to persons who are regarded as vendors selling all sorts of different food within the town centre and on the periphery [edges of town], what percentage of that population is in compliance with the health standards?” Vernon asked Lewis during the meeting.
“From February’s report, I think it is less than five per cent of those persons. There are over 600 itinerant vendors, and we are able to take action mainly with the ones who are at the schools, but the ones who are on the streets are here today and gone tomorrow,” Lewis answered.
“We have to deal with it immediately, so I will ask you to get your team to start moving around on these cases to see how best we can get them to start getting to a level of compliance,” Vernon said sternly. “There are complaints coming in where persons have reported some type of illness based on purchasing of food from certain locations. You have to look at it in a fulsome way, as it is a serious matter.”
In speaking about how to deal with the situation, Lewis told the StJMC that having the vendors ply their trade in designated areas would make it easier to keep track of their hygiene practices.
“Food vending is a cultural practice, and it is difficult to fully dismantle these persons. I believe that if the municipal corporation would be willing to structure these persons in the vending zones and sites, it would be easier for us to monitor their practices,” said Lewis.
“What we have done in the past was to conduct food drives for these itinerant vendors; and I know that at some of the schools we have done a handwashing programme with vendors, where we provided a makeshift handwashing station for them. What we can do is conduct a food drive with the municipal corporation and have these persons there,” Lewis added.
Over the years, the StJMC has made several efforts to get vendors complying with the authorities’ regulations, including having them sell in designated sections of Montego Bay, such as the Charles Gordon Market. Other measures include the St James Health Department’s thrust in 2017 to engage vendors in hygiene and cleanliness training to counter Montego Bay’s perpetual rat infestation problem.
Last November, Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams identified migrant vendors as being primarily responsible for the congestion being experienced on the western city’s streets.
In the meantime, during Thursday’s meeting, Vernon announced that talks have begun with the Japanese Embassy to provide solar-power facilities to the Charles Gordon Market, in order to promote environmentally-friendly operational practices.