The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has introduced a set of guidelines to be followed by all the food deliverers, who are on the rise in the city.
The officials of the Municipality's Health Department had drafted the guideline to food deliverers in line with the Food Act under the guidance of Mayor Rosy Senanayake and the instructions of Chief Medical Officer Dr Ruwan Wijayamuni.
The City Food Safety and Hygiene Promotion Unit, Dr Subash Mendis said there were several deliverers attached to various restaurants to deliver food in the past and the number has increased recently with the entry of Uber and PickMe Food deliverers.
He said there were about 4,000 Uber Food deliverers in Colombo and suburbs followed by about 400 PickMe Food deliverers and another 400 to 500 food deliverers attached to various restaurants.
"With the increase of food deliverers, several new issues arose. According to the Food Safety Act, they should adhere to food safety regulations followed by food handlers when transporting food. Food deliverers have an immense responsibility to maintain their hygiene up to a standard. Therefore, we introduced a guideline to these food deliverers," Dr Mendis said.
He said Uber was onboard the initiative and they also made a request asking for the guideline.
"Uber ensured that it would make their deliverers aware of the guidelines and would incorporate it during the training process of new deliverers," he said.
According to Dr Mendis, some of the weaknesses of the food deliverers were placing the food containing boxes between leg space on scooters, storing personal items such as jackets inside the food containing box and failure to keep the box clean regularly.
"Sometimes some deliverers place their food inside the box and fail to remove any food particles in it. Personal hygiene of deliverers is a key point. They should have no skin diseases or wounds and should maintain their hands clean with nails cut short. We have first introduced the guideline to Uber deliverers-the majority of food handlers in the city-and will introduce it to other deliverers as well," he said.
He said another issue which has arisen from mobile application based food delivery platforms was the rise of households where foods are being prepared for commercial purposes.
"According to the Food Act, there are categories under which eateries should be registered. Snack bars, eateries and lunch packet producers are some of these categories. However, those who make food at home and deliver them through mobile application based food delivery applications are not registered under any of these categories. There's a sizeable amount of homes which produce pickles, sweets and sandwiches and deliver them through deliverers. We are in the process of the expanding the ‘lunch packet producers' category to get these home-based food-producing entities registered," Dr Mendis said.
He said one of the issues with home-based food-producing entities was that not even public health inspectors (PHI) were aware of their locations.
"We will obtain details from Uber to get these places registered," he said.
Meanwhile, he said the health officials including PHIs would stop and check food deliverers on the road for their hygiene and to seek if they comply with food safety regulations.
"However, when we inspect deliverers, it could affect their delivery time. As long as they follow food safety regulations, its best for all stakeholders," Dr Mendis said. (Lahiru Pothmulla)