Lahore: As you salivate, eyeing your favorite dish in a restaurant, the health conditions of the waiter might be the last thing on your mind. As you dig in to your food and the flavors are unleashed on your palate, it becomes hard to picture the invisible germs of some highly contagious diseases possibly squirming away in your food. The recent findings of the blood screenings conducted by the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) of 4572 waiters from various areas of Lahore are exactly what the nightmares of a foodie consist of.
The city’s most popular food industry which is only superseded by its rich history has been dealt several blows in terms of the hygiene standards being practiced. PFA usually takes center stage in such scenarios. Not very long ago former Director Operations PFA, Ayesha Mumtaz made many sensational headlines as she ravaged the elitist image of some of the finest eateries in the city. The latest handout or post on the PFA Facebook page became a map for every food lovers’ gastronomical adventure.
Many food palaces were turned into faithless abodes after the hygiene of the waiters and kitchen cleanliness were investigated. In the city of Lahore where love translates into food and so does recreation the latest endeavor of PFA should serve as an eyeopener for all. According to the Data obtained by News Lens Pakistan every 28th worker in the city’s eateries is infected with deadly diseases. The most rampant virus amongst the affected was Hepatitis C with a score of 756 patients of Hepatitis B while 26 of Tuberculosis and last but most definitely not the least 3 were suffering from HIV/Aids.
The affected waiters have been issued red cards by the PFA. The Director General PFA Noorul Amin Mengal told News Lens Pakistan, “These workers will not be left to perish on their own, they will be provided treatment at the government’s expense. Their employers will receive a follow up visit to ensure that they are complying with the authority’s directive.”
Workers of the food industry when contacted agreed vehemently with the importance of their sound health. Particularly to help curb the spread of the above-mentioned diseases in which any bodily fluid of the affected person has the potential to transmit the disease on contact with a healthy person. This includes the most common and probably the hardest to avoid without strict preventive measures, saliva, sweat and blood.
When the public was confronted with the latest findings of PFA they expressed grave concern. Responding to the query of what effect will this have on the frequency of their visits to the local eateries, they said that they would decrease the number of times that they go for eat outs. A more sustainable solution was also a popular demand amongst the people.
News Lens Pakistan contacted owners of various food outlets in Lahore. When they were questioned about the hygienic conditions of their kitchens and staff, they claimed that it is mandatory for all those working in the kitchen to wear plastic gloves and caps to ensure maximum cleanliness. However, the waiters and servers are usually devoid of both and they were making reforms in this department. On how to ensure that they are disease free, the owners felt that regular screenings were the only solution.
Most of the food industry workers belong to the low-income group that usually results in low quality lifestyles resultant in different diseases. Lack of education and awareness is a hindrance in the diagnosis and later treatment as well, not helped by threadbare finances. Rendering these people useless due to their illness is not the solution, they need to be made aware of and provided with subsidized medical care and diagnostic procedures can help with this dilemma.
On the other hand, the hospitality industry needs to be more vigilant in recruiting healthy individuals who come in direct contact with food items. A harmless thing such as a hearty meal from your favorite restaurant should not by any means become a lifelong regret for anyone.
Dr Salman Kazmi, a senior office bearer of Young Doctors Association, told News Lens Pakistan, Hepatitis B/C and HIV are all blood borne diseases and transmissible through direct interaction with various secretions of the patient.” For example, if an infected fluid gets mingled with food but the food is cooked or heated at a high temperature, the germs or virus will be killed. “And, if the food is raw or cold it can effectively transfer the infection to the eater,” he added.
He said that that Tuberculosis is highly contagious and transmissible through cough and saliva.