With the food and hospitality industry being one of the fastest growing sectors in urban Guyana, local institutions concerned with formulating and ensuring food safety and waste disposal regulations have “significantly added responsibilities”, which they must be equipped to execute efficiently, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Clinton Urling told Stabroek Business in a comment earlier this week.
“Frankly, it would be ill-advised to have a situation in which we allow an expansion of the sector without making allowances for the added waste disposal and safety and health implications of that expansion,” Urling told Stabroek Business.
The GCCI President who is also the owner of the well-known German’s Restaurant told Stabroek Business that his own establishment has been seeking not only to comply with safety and health and responsible waste disposal habits but also to “stay ahead of the game” as far as those are concerned. Accordingly, he cited the decision by German’s Restaurant to switch from the use of non-biodegradable food containers to biodegradable ones.
Asserting that the responsibility of the expanding food industry to “take responsibility” in matters of food hygiene and waste disposal, Urling said that while the GCCI could continue to give guidance to its members, in the final analysis it was “up to the individual businessman” to make the correct decisions. “If you are asking the GCCI to take some sort of responsibility here I would have to say that while we can continue to sensitise our members through the various public fora that we continue to hold, we are not a regulating agency. It is really up to the individual businessmen to embrace what they know to be their responsibility and the enforcement agencies to do their job well,” Urling said.
And according to the Chamber President the increase in the level of solid waste being generated gives rise to an even more urgent need for regulations that speak to the separation of waste. “Unfortunately, we could continue to face one crisis or another as long as we continue to not recognise the need for the creation of an upgraded waste disposal system.”
Increased waste disposal responsibilities associated with the growth of the urban food industry should not result in a situation in which fingers are pointed at the investors, he stated. “We need to make a distinction between the significant investments that have been made in the food industry in recent years and the food safety and waste disposal issues. For the record it is my view that we must embrace those investments as being good for the country’s economy. On the other hand it is really a matter of the investors recognising that the privilege of investing in the food sector carries with it certain responsibilities which include… food safety and safe waste disposal.”
Local Safety and Health Consultant Dale Beresford told Stabroek Business that he endorses the view that individual investors must take responsibility for delivering safe food to their patrons and engaging in responsible solid waste disposal habits. However, he was concerned, first, that proprietors need to be sensitised to the importance of behaving responsibly and, second, that enforcement measures match whatever efforts the proprietors make. “Perhaps there is a danger in assuming that the proprietors will always do the right thing. It should not be forgotten that some food business investors may know little if anything about food safety or waste disposal. They have to be trained. They have to be sensitised. Frankly, we can do much worse than create regulations which ensure that these investors are at least aware of food safety and waste disposal issues. It’s a matter of training and sensitisation,” Beresford said.
A former employee of the Georgetown municipality Beresford told Stabroek Business that he was “not sure” whether current resource levels at City Hall were sufficient to cope with “all of the various safety and health and waste disposal issues that arise out of the surfeit of food establishments. “Certainly, we have to ensure that the capacity of entities like the municipality keep pace with the expansion of the sector,” Beresford said.
Stabroek Business was unable to secure an interview with City Hall’s Public Relations Officer on this issue when it sought to do so earlier this week.