Many would agree with the statement that Cebuanos are food lovers. The creativity to prepare meat and turn it into various dishes is unique. The taste is there, but are they safe?

According to Section 3-A of the Presidential Decree 856, otherwise known as the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Chapter 3: Food Establishments of the Code on Sanitation of the Philippines, in order for a food establishment to do business, it has to secure first a sanitary permit, which shall be given by the city health office after the said establishment has passed the standards to do business. These sanitary permits are only valid for a year. Regardless of when the establishment has issued a permit, it shall only be valid at the end of December. For example, Restaurant X managed to come up with a permit only on June 1, the permit shall end on Dec. 31, which is the same as those permits filed on Jan. 1.

The Code on Sanitation has also prescribed a couple of structural requirements for establishments to do business as stated in Section 3-E, which provides some specific requirements to the floors, walls, ceilings, ventilation and lighting. Additionally, sanitary facilities requirements are also imposed on the toilet facilities, wash-hand basins, sewage disposal and drainage, refuse collection, separation, storage and disposal, and water supply.

It is evident that not all food establishments have complied with all the requirements and the question could also go as basic as, “Why are these establishments allowed to do business in the first place?” The code has stated that “these rules shall apply to all food establishments and facilities, including those located in vessels, food containers and vehicles, and food sold in the streets”. As much as how we appreciate street food, it is not exempted from complying with the requirements set by the code.

Do the punk-punk stalls have water systems that have a Certificate of Potability of Drinking Water issued by the local health officer? Do they have running hot and cold water under adequate pressure accessible to customers? Do they segregate waste, according to number 5.2 of the code, from recyclables, trashes, and food materials? This does not only apply to street food, but to all food establishments as well.

The code even goes as far as requiring establishments to keep perishable goods refrigerated at 7 °C and at 4 °C when such foods are to be stored for extended periods. According to Section 3-J of the code, fruit and vegetables shall be stored in cool rooms. Well, fruits near the Schotel at the Downtown Campus are not even stored in a cool room, so are those vendors offenders of the code?

The Code on Sanitation still has a lot more to require; however, what is the point of expounding on the remaining requirements when even with all the aforementioned, we can already point a lot of alleged offenders. What is more important now is that the point is now made clear — poor implementation or poor level of compliance?

Arguably, the country has very good laws, but when it goes down to the implementation of such laws, it becomes a huge problem. Another example is the Cybercrime Law; libellous online comments are everywhere: What’s next?

Take it as a consequence when people become recipients of diseases brought by the poor sanitation food establishments have. Nonetheless, the people also need to be responsible enough.

The level of compliance among food establishments vary depending on a law’s implementation — if authorities choose not to be strict with what is required, so do the establishments not cleansing utensils into warm 49oC-water.

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