Authorities must make registration mandatory before opening new restaurants so that their quality of service and food improved, said Monjur Mohammad Shahriar, deputy director, Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection.
‘The best way to control restaurants is to introduce a system of vetting and monitoring that will guide them from the very first day of their business,’ said Shahriar.
He said that the registration process would require business entrepreneur to fulfil a number of criteria that are integral to good hygiene practice.
For instance, he clarified, the restaurants should not be allowed to open unless it had a place dedicated for washing foods and dishes, a facility largely absent in restaurants in Bangladesh.
Another requirement for registration could be making it mandatory for restaurants to buy water meant for customers’ consumption from companies certified by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, he said.
Currently, there is no requirement for restaurant businessmen for obtaining permission for running their businesses. Only a trade license is enough to run the business.
The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority has introduced letter grading system to improve food quality and service in restaurants that are already in operation.
There are ten criteria needed to be fulfilled by restaurants to be graded.
Shahriar said that restaurants operate with such level of impunity in Bangladesh that their kitchens were never visited by anybody representing the authority.
‘The situation is changing very slowly and, additionally, many restaurants still do not have toilets,’ said Shahriar.
He said that there are several thousand restaurants in the streets of Dhaka who operate in conditions not conducive for food business at all.
Practice of hygiene is very poor among restaurant owners and consumers are not aware about it as well, he said.
In January, Shahriar visited the canteen at Bangabandhu Sehikh Mujib Medical University where cockroaches moved in groups of dozens in the open.
‘This is unbelievable,’ he said.
Shahriar added that five teams are constantly monitoring restaurant business in Dhaka, especially in areas where people gather in large numbers every day.
He said that in high street restaurants date-expired ingredients are regularly used for cooking foods.
He said that they try not to fine businesses to reduce losses but sometimes food safety violations seem so serious that they cannot ignore those.
He said that there are some violations resulting from sheer negligence of the owner of the restaurants.
He said that this year they conducted 2,450 mobile courts in Dhaka division and most of which resulted in fines of restaurants.
He said that the DNCRP also organises meeting with restaurant owners, chefs and table attendants to train them.
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