Eating out practice is becoming more and more ingrained into the life styles of most urban dwellers and with increasing wealth accumulation through better economic development, the so called middle class population do not want to be left out of the pleasure of eating out more and more frequently. This trend is further accentuated because of the socio-economic changes taking place in many developing countries resulting in more number of nuclear families. With both husband and wife working for earning adequately to maintain a decent life style, time is at a premium and the kitchen responsibilities are progressively getting reduced. Under such circumstances it becomes the primary responsibility of the health authorities to ensure that restaurant foods are absolutely safe. Though there are many serious food poisoning episodes, reported in the Western world from restaurant foods, in absence of any verifiable documentation system in countries like India, the seriousness or other wise about any danger posed by food preparations served in catering places in these countries cannot ascertained. The initiative by the Colombo authorities to put in place a vigilance system to monitor the health conditions of the workers in restaurants is indeed laudable. Probably urban regions in other countries also must consider emulating this effort for the sake of tourists as well as the local population that frequent public eateries.
Concerned by mounting health complaints from guests who have fallen ill after consuming food served in Colombo hotels, the Colombo Municipal Council which recently made it mandatory that all food handlers and staff in the hotel industry get a medical check up, is stepping up these operations. "We're not doing this to harass the hotel industry, but rather to help the industry which is developing rapidly now with many more tourists and locals patronising it and consuming hotel meals," Dr Pradeep Kariyawasam, Chief Medical Officer of the Colombo Municipal Council told The Nation. "Many of the health problems resulting from the consumption of hotel meals could have been passed by the food handlers themselves. This is why we think it is important that all hotel staff especially food handlers, undergo a thorough medical check up."
In India each municipal body has a health officer vested with the responsibility of monitoring the hygienic and sanitary conditions of the public eateries licensed by it but with grossly inadequate facilities and personnel, such offices are more decorative than functional. The quality of workers employed by these eateries is no body's business with all sorts of people including children being deployed by the industry. Most of these workers are illiterate, unhealthy, lethargic besides being too poor to maintain good health conditions. Most state governments are too much concerned about the "rights" of these workers like minimum wages, bonus and other working conditions while their responsibilities vis-a-vis keeping good health and appearance are totally ignored. It is time for an overhaul of the working force in the hotel industry keeping in view the interests of customers, workers and the management.