Food has gained popularity not only in the planning of a travel itinerary, but also as a food destination, becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry.
Penang has been long known for its interesting sights, good food, excellent services that makes it one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Restaurant operators and street hawker vendors are famous for their authentic local food. However, some did not practice good hygiene while operating their restaurants and stalls. Penang’s reputation as a street food haven may suffer if such outlet operators and hawkers continue to disregard food hygiene. In fact, local authorities have ensured the food sector bucks up where needed. The Penang Island City Council had ordered the closure of three restaurants in Balik Pulau in July 2022 after rat droppings were discovered on their premises.
Strict enforcement is required to maintain food safety operational procedure standards. The public authorities should not pre-announce the health inspectors’ inspections but conduct spot checks regularly. They must continuously monitor the operations of the street food business to ensure that the licence granted to the vendors is not jeopardised by opening the street food area to non-citizens.
Food operators should not be allowed to operate if they do not wear apron, hair net, plastic, and gloves. “If the restaurant is a repeat offender, then fines should increase, and closure should be for an entire month,” said Syerleena Abdul Rashid, a former member of the Penang Island City Council from 2015 to 2018. A hefty fine may seem extreme to some, but this message is a reminder that we must take care of our food, protect our assets because many people from all walks of life travel to our state to enjoy our Penang food.
Ensuring safe food consumption is critical for boosting tourism capital, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, as it drives it out of the economic crisis.
The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) believes that the Food Act 1983 by-law should be amended because Section 11 of the Act does not serve as a deterrent. It provides for a fourteen-day closure of any premises preparing or selling food in unhygienic conditions and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, a fine, or both. Current laws on the matter are too lenient, that is why restaurateurs continue to ignore cleanliness, CAP said.
With the recent competition to find the best Penang hawker food, which runs now until November 30th, 2022 hawkers must value their hygiene practices even more when offering their services, whether it is preparing and dispensing the food.
The competition which is part of the “Love Penang” campaign, targets approximately 2,000 street food vendors and hawkers. Hawkers and vendors can register online to compete via the LovePENANG app or at lovepg.my. They will be given a QR code to be pasted on their push carts, stalls, and trucks.
The winning hawker or vendor will receive RM200,000 in prize money. Interestingly, people can also vote once for each vendor or hawker by scanning the same QR code after tasting the food. This initiative ensures that hawkers value the importance of good hygiene practises while promoting their best food.