CAPTION: Consumer Council of Fiji CEO Premila Kumar. Photo: SHALENDRA PRASAD.
The Consumer Council commends the Ministry of Health for implementing the Restaurant Grading System.
The Council has been lobbying for a restaurant grading system since 2007. That effort is bearing fruit, with the Ministry of Health now in the implementation stage of the system. The Council understands that a lot of work has been done by the Ministry’s Food Unit through consultations and training sessions with stakeholders.
The Council believes that a grading system would make consumers aware of what standards and levels of service are being practiced by various eateries. Consumers would be in a better position to make informed choices over which restaurants they will patronize. The Council is also of the view that a grading system will strengthen competition and quality of service in the restaurant sector as operators strive to attain the highest grades. Furthermore, the important tourism industry will benefit with assurance that there are restaurant standards in place and that visitors are able to look outside the more expensive up-market eateries.
The need for Restaurant Grading came about when the Council in the past had highlighted issues such as dirty toilets/washrooms, bad hygiene, food stored in washroom areas, uncovered food warmers, insect infestation and other issues. The Council has also highlighted issues relating to improper food handling by restaurant/kitchen staff, re-use of cooking oil, and other practices that endangered consumers’ health and safety. The Food Safety Regulations 2009 requires food handlers to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and wear suitable protective gears such as head covering and footwear when preparing food. The law also requires restaurant owners to maintain a clean and hygienic cooking environment and wash room facilities. The Restaurant Grading system will ensure a better level of compliance and allow more transparency in regards to information for consumers to make informed decisions when visiting restaurants.
The Council is pledging its support to the Ministry of Health in making the grading system a reality. We will play our role in continuing our market surveillance of restaurants and will support the Ministry and Food Unit in supplying information and evidence of cases of non-compliance.