There is a crackdown coming on illegal food vendors, Cabinet Minister Arden McLean warned on Friday.
There are three types of illegal food vendors that will be targeted: those doing street-side barbeques; those preparing meals in private dwellings and selling from their vehicles; and those operating from enclosed substandard facilities, Mr. McLean said.
‘My appeal to those doing this is to get regulated.’
The Government last cracked down on illegal food vendors in January 2003 in a multi-organisation effort that included the Department of Environmental Health, the Trade and Business Licence Board, the Public Health Department and others, Mr. McLean said.
Twenty-four people were issued cease-trading orders as a result of that crackdown. However, others have started the practice of selling food illegally since then, Mr. McLean said.
‘Following Hurricane Ivan and more recently, there has been an increase of such operations, which needs to be brought under control,’ he said.
Mr. McLean explained it was a matter of public safety.
‘We don’t want the people doing these businesses to think we are draconian, but they have to have the proper (food safety practices),’ he said
Mr. McLean said the Government understood that many of the people who were selling food illegally were doing it to supplement their income to make ends meet in hard economic times.
‘We applaud the efforts of entrepreneurs,’ he said. ‘But do it right.’
Mr. McLean said illegal food vendors greatly increase dangers related to public health for a variety of reasons, including a lack of food safety training, poor food handling, a lack of basic hygiene facilities, and others.
He noted that some people were selling already prepared food from the trunks of their car.
‘(The illegal food vendors) could lead to a rise in food poisoning cases,’ he said. ‘Food poisoning can be a serious illness that can lead to hospitalisation.
‘In severe cases, especially with the very young, the elderly or the infirmed, it can lead to dehydration, kidney failure and even death.’
Mr. McLean also warned people in the public that they consume food prepared by illegal vendors at their own risk.
As was the case in 2003, Mr. McLean said food vendors were being given ample warning about the coming crackdown so that they can take steps to become legal if they want to.
The warning period will be a little more than a month, until the end of August.
‘After the expiration… there will be inspections throughout the day and at night, and the people who are caught will be prosecuted under the Public Health Law.’
Mr. McLean said the people selling raw fish by the roadside or the sea would also fall under the scope of the crackdown.
‘Fish sellers, too,’ he said. ‘(It applies to) any distribution of food to the general public.’
Mr. McLean said it was possible for the illegal food vendors to take the steps to become legal. He said he could think of four jerk vendors who took the steps to become legal after being issued cease order during the last crackdown.
Pointing specifically to the former street-side jerk vendor Tony Bodden, Mr. McLean praised his efforts to open a restaurant off of Eastern Avenue.
‘He has a thriving business now,’ he said. ‘We want to encourage that.’
Mr. McLean suggested illegal food vendors to get a Trade and Business Licence and to contract the various health agencies to learn what steps they need to take to get regulated.