Police, health department to rid MoBay streets of illegal food vendors

Observer West reporter

Thursday, November 29, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Citing grave public health concerns, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the St James Public Health Department are embarking on a massive campaign to remove illegal food vendors from the streets of Montego Bay, starting tomorrow.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer West, Chief Public Health Inspector of the St James Public Health Department, Lennox Wallace, revealed that food vendors operating at sections of Barnett Street, in the vicinity of the bus park, and “Clock” will be among those targeted.

“We will also be targeting “Clock” and beside Courts and right before Sunshine Plaza, that general area as well will be targeted,” Wallace emphasised.

Speaking at a town hall meeting at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre on Monday, Deputy Superintendent of Police Kevin Francis, who warned consumers to be mindful from whom they purchase meals, disclosed that over the Yuletide season the police would be coming down hard on food vendors who breach public health regulations.

“There are persons who hustle and by hustling they cook a pot of soup and sell. You and I are not aware of who these persons are or their health status. You are not aware if they have public health certification. You are not aware if they are sick, if they have any disease or what are their means of preparation for these foods,” DSP Francis argued.

“Be careful of who you purchase from, be carefully of where they get the food to sell you. Be very careful that you yourself do not come down with some sort of sickness, based on what you consume from these people. Some of the places where these people prepare the food are unsightly, unsanitary; it's not fit for human consumption.”

He said while not opposed to people making a living, safety must be assured.

“These egg-and-bread carts that we have going around, you must ensure that they have the relevant documentation from Public Health, and their food handlers permit, among other things. We cannot continue to allow the hustler mentality to take us over and flaunt safety,” the senior cop charged.

Meanwhile, the senior public health inspector at the St James Public Health Department declared that, accompanied by the police, they will also be moving all mobile food vendors from the Freeport area of Montego Bay as, according to him, they are operating in breach of public health standards.

“We will also move to Freeport where you have those mobile vendors. We are going to remove them as well. They can't operate there because the conditions under which they operate are less than public health standard. We are going to remove them. We are going to take some action this week,” Wallace said.

He added that a number of the providers of meals in Freeport can no longer be classified as mobile vendors because they operate from trucks of which the tyres have been punctured for up to four years.

He was particularly critical of food vendors along Gloucester Avenue, who on account of their unhygienic practices have triggered a rat infestation in the area where they vend, causing the recent multi-million-dollar spend on a rodent control programme.

“We spent $6.5million on a rodent control programme there. And we are saying that we can't have government money spending on what they create and they don't contribute anything at all to the clean-up and the programme. So we are asking that they be removed. Down at Dead End as well, the condition that they leave the place in, that contribute to the rodent population,” Wallace explained.

He pointed out that recommendations are to be made to the St James Municipal Corporation to remove food vendors who overcrowd a particular spot along the “Hip Strip” where only 10 were permitted to operate.

“Food vendors along the Hip Strip have become an eyesore and they are operating under unhygienic conditions.

We are recommending for their numbers to be reduced and that they are properly zoned. Especially before the Pelican Restaurant we are recommending that all of them be removed,” Wallace stated.

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