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Stern warning sent to fisherfolk
By RuthMoisa Stoute
Continue to break the law and your license to operate your business within any of the public markets could terminated.
This is the stern warning coming from senior officials within the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday morning, after complaining of several years of infractions by some fisherfolk which has presented problems with the quality of some fish being sold and the conditions of the environment in which they are sold, and consequently poses health threats to the public of Barbados.
Problems such as temperature abuse, poor personal hygiene of vendors, inappropriate fish handling leading to possible bacteria contamination and the use of inappropriate containers to store fish were some of the several common and worrisome infractions addressed during a press conference and the Bridgetown Fisheries Division yesterday morning.
Senior officials of both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture expressed dissatisfaction that despite the rolling out of several rigorous training programmes, there were still a handful of offenders that continued to conduct business in an unprofessional and unhealthy manner.
It was revealed that in some cases fish was being kept at room temperature for too long and persons were using inappropriate containers to transport fish.
Sherlock King, Acting Manager of the Bridgetown Public Market which was the centre of controversy recently due to some of the aforementioned unsanitary practices, told reporters that the containers which vendors ought to be using should be of food grade quality and ought to be easily cleaned and maintained. “We found that the supermarket trolleys [which were confiscated] were not meeting that criteria..”. King also said that during the Division's routine inspections a number of persons were found to be processing fish with long nails, not using the correct headgear or using cutting boards which were not made of the appropriate materials.
Not seeking to make sweeping comments about all vendors, King was of the view that the Fisheries Division had to work hard to break several entrenched practices and beliefs, one of them being that it did not matter how fish was handled because “lime and salt” as well as “cooking the fish to death” would kill all forms of food borne diseases.
Another bone of contention with the division was the continuing practise by some vendors to keep their surroundings unclean and unsanitary. King reminding vendors that by law, and as was the case with any other tenant, vendors who were tenants within any Public Market were required to clean their stalls and immediate surroundings themselves.
“As long as you operate [there] you are a tenant of the market, you pay money, there are some obligations on you as a tenant”, argued King, who said that there was the notion that government had to clean people's personal space.
“The popular belief is that the general workers are not cleaning the market... We are butting this wall where some vendors say 'If I do not throw my garbage on the floor and if I do not dirty the place, what work will the general worker have to do?' That is the attitude we have. So we are explaining to the vendors, work with the institution to keep the place clean and sanitary at all times."
King contested the view of some that the Division had taken a “high-handed” approach by recently closing the Bridgetown Market in order to facilitate cleaning, adding that it was not possible to operate and clean at the same time and such a move was the penalty associated with not maintaining sanitary conditions.
“[We are not] punishing people and stopping them from making a dollar. What we are saying [is] once you make sure you work area is clean you will not have any problem with our Quality Control department.
Meanwhile, Israel Kirton, Senior Supervisor of Markets, called on more vendors to see themselves as business persons and their stalls as their area of conducting business. He maintained that such a practise would route out issues such as inappropriate dress and poor personal hygiene, adding that the perception of 'fish is a dirty business therefore I need to be dirty' needed to be broken.