Some roadside vendors risk sparking a major disease outbreak by preparing sugar cane for sale in the lavatory at Sky Mall in Haggatt Hall, St Michael, health and agricultural officials have revealed.
Adding to the concerns of the authorities is the fact that the culprits have not been identified, nor can they tell whether or not the cane was stolen.
Therefore, the authorities are warning Barbadians to think it through before they purchase fruit and raw products from the vendors along the ABC Highway.
“That practice is a no-no, because unlike cooked food, you cannot apply heat to cane to kill any micro-organisms. When it comes to fruit or vegetables, we recommend that you soak them in water with a few drops of bleach before offering them for public consumption, and a bathroom is definitely not a place to prepare food for sale owing to the health risks involved,” Principal Environmental Health Officer at the Branford Taitt Polyclinic Pedro Hunte said.
It was an issue that also caught the attention of Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul, who called for a police investigation into the report.
“The police and the Ministry of Agriculture should be dealing with this, because the vendors may not have acquired the cane legally. We have regulations in place for these matters and the health inspectors and others responsible should be out there ensuring that the laws are enforced,” Paul said.
However, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture said the matter was not as simple as that since the offending vendors may have had permission from the Ministry of Transport and Works to sell on the roadside.
In this case, he said, anyone who could prove they obtained the crops legally could sell without getting into trouble with the law.
“The risk of contamination is at its greatest if you prepare it in a bathroom and that could become a national public health concern. The two dilemmas here are how the fruit was acquired in the first place and how it is being prepared,” the official said.
The answers were no more forthcoming for Environmental Health Officer at the Six Roads Polyclinic Sean Dottin.
“This is a ticklish matter since the police can only intervene if we have a description of the culprit and if it can be proven that the cane was stolen. In that instance the owner of the canes would have to inform them if they reported some of their canes were missing,” Dottin said.
“If they want to prepare the cane for sale, they should ask the mall’s management for access to a potable water facility outside the mall, and should not be using the bathroom for that purpose,” he added.