Food Safety Law: Vendors jeer, consumers cheer
There are always two sides to a coin as in an argument and with the communal elections over, the hot market topic is the soon-to-be Food Safety Law.
Food vendors are downbeat while consumers are enthusiastic and cannot wait for the law, which covers the entire food process chain, to be enforced.
The law provides for everything and anything to do with food and provides monetary penalty for offences such as selling unhygienic, expired, substandard and fake food, even improper labelling.
In essence, the law is to guarantee that “food shall be safe and the quality suitable for human consumption”.
Many vendors, however, see the rules as detrimental to their business.
Nhem Dalin, 39, a meatball vendor near Sisowath High School, derided the law saying “healthy food don’t come cheap”.
“My customers are mostly students and the ordinary worker. Do you think they have much money to pay for good food?
“Good and healthy food come at a high cost. My customers are not rich people. Rich people will eat at restaurants or order food delivery.
“You think everybody is rich? You think everyone has the money for good things?
“If I follow the law I will need to charge $2 to $3 for a serving of my meatballs. I will go out of business.
“If people think my food is unhygienic, then don’t buy. I don’t force people to buy. It is impossible for street food to be always hygienic,” he said irritably.
Sambath Restaurant owner Sok Chan Sambath described his eatery as a small business catering to factory workers, construction workers and rickshaw drivers.
He admitted that the food he serves may not be healthy and “not 100% clean”.
“We make sure our food is cooked properly and we do not use any chemical in our food,” he said.
Sambath, however, added he would not know if perishables obtained from the wet market were chemical free.
According to Sambath buying “healthy provisions to cook and sell for between 3,000 and 5,000 riel is impossible. The affordability of my target customer is vital”.
He also complained about the need to be licensed.
“My business is small one, and when the law is effective I will need to apply for a business permit. I will then have to pay taxes. How can a small business survive with all these rules?” he asked.
Over at Phsar Chas market, vegetable seller Tem Sros, 56, said vegetables sold in the market were locally grown as well as sourced from Vietnam.
“Vegetables grown locally are more expensive than those imported from Vietnam. I will not know how much pesticides are used on the vegetables.
“I will have a hard time with health inspectors when they check. This is unfair to me,” she said.
Fruit Seller Chan Dany, 49, concurred.
“We will never know how much chemical is used on the fruits. What is obvious is the good quality ones are expensive and the cheap ones are low quality but cheap or expensive we cannot tell if the fruit is chemical free.
“We cannot know if the vegetable or fruit is toxic or with chemicals over the permissible limits.
“If the law is implemented, the government must inspect the produce at the border as thousands of vendors are importing from neighbouring countries.
“If the fruits or vegetables are ok, let the vendors buy it. If not then stop it at the border. Don’t let it in. This way we won’t be penalised,” she said
Cheb Sreyda, a mother of an 11-year-old daughter, said the new law “will teach nasty food vendors a lesson”.
“Some sellers will never tell the truth … where the products come from even though we have the right to know before buying.
“I am particularly concern about food sold in school and outside the school compound. The law will help ensure that food sold is safe for consumption.
“I hope the law will be implemented soon. It is a great law and it will help Cambodia improve its bad reputation among foreigners for street food,” she said.
Wan Darapisey, 28, is a regular at Phsar Jas for food and fresh produce.
“I do my marketing at Phsar Jas and often have porridge with pork offal or meatballs at the market,” she said.
Darapisey added that she knows many of the food stalls were not clean and avoid such vendors.
“Many people know the food is not clean but they have no choice. The government has never taken action but I hope they will when the draft law becomes law,” she said.
“I hope it will be soon. I will be happy to know that action is being taken and I will be happy to know that the food I buy and eat will be safe and up to standard.
“Many vendors know customers have no choice. When the law comes, vendors will have no choice but to improve,” she said.
The draft Food Safety Law now awaits King Sihamoni Sihanouk’s endorsement for enactment.
It took seven years to be drafted by a committee comprising representatives from six ministries – Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Commerce – and encompasses anything and everything related to food.
“The law aims to protect the health and lives of people from the dangers caused by the presence of harmful agents in food.
“It will also protect the people from fraudulent sources, quality, branding or advertising.
“The law covers the food chain, from the initial production to the sale or supply to consumers,” Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak told Khmer Times recently.
Source from: Yim Sreylin. (June 7, 2022). Food Safety Law: Vendors jeer, consumers cheer. KHMER. https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501089097/food-safety-law-vendors-jeer-consumers-cheer/ TIMES