The country’s chief health inspector is calling for the enactment of laws to regulate the number of new fast-food restaurants that are allowed to set-up shop in Antigua at any given time.
Sharon Martin, made the statement to OBSERVER media yesterday while lamenting that her department is hamstrung due to a shortage of manpower and is unable to cope with ensuring that businesses, especially restaurants, are complying with proper health standards.
The response from the chief health official was triggered by a complaint that a popular Chinese restaurant, on the outskirts of St. John’s, is violating several health regulations.
“We need to have laws to govern the operation of each restaurant. As it is now, someone can just come on Thursday and by the weekend they are selling. We need laws to govern those sorts of things or else it will transcend our coping ability,” Martin said.
She explained that the department is currently staffed with 12 individuals – mostly junior officers who are untrained in public health.
“We can’t visit a restaurant today and by the end of the month revisit unless we have a specific complaint about it. We try our best to visit some businesses, in some places where you only had one restaurant, you look around and now there are six. We do not have the manpower to keep up,” Martin stressed.
Meanwhile, the report, about unsanitary conditions at the fast food restaurant, was accompanied by photographs which have since gone viral.
It came from a former worker of the popular restaurant. The establishment had reportedly failed to meet public health standards after previous inspections.
The worker claims that the health of thousands of customers is at risk due to unsanitary practices, and the owner of the business should be prosecuted. The individual also complained about chicken being cooked two to three days in advance, refrigerated, and then dipped in hot oil to complete orders.
The former employee spoke about seeing beef that was soaked in water and left overnight, while shrimp, covered in flour, was being stored under counters, exposed to rats and cockroaches.
Additionally, the ex-employee expressed concern about a sick chef who, reportedly, vomited and spat blood in a sink where chicken and other meat were being washed.
The chief health inspector, who is returning from vacation, said inspectors are aware of the complaints.
“I was told it was a Chinese restaurant located not too far from the airport and I asked if the allegations were true. They told me no and that the complaint came from a young lady who was recently fired from the
establishment,” Martin explained.
As a result of this, the health official has warned potentially disgruntled workers against filing false reports about establishments just because they have parted ways.
“Tell them when they get fired stop being mischievous. When people are being fired from their workplace, they come and they say all manner of evil and most of the time it is not true, so they need to stop it,” Martin warned.