Stool sample is “not quite necessary” for issuing food certificates, says the Cook Islands Chefs Association.
However association president Karlene Taokia commended the Health ministry for the bold step in “putting a lid on food borne diseases”.
Taokia said they understand why the ministry had gone to drastic lengths to make this rule but their requirement was “not quite necessary”.
She said stool sample should only be required if a cook or kitchen hand was “seriously sick”.
“This, however, should be a last step in a food compliance license, if Ministry of Health have any doubts on the licensee’s ability to produce safe food,” Taokia said.
“Stool samples identify food handlers with diseases that are otherwise not identifiable by blood samples.
“A stool sample is only required if a person is seriously sick, a lot of the diseases they are looking for (in the sample) are not really transmitted in this country.”
Public Health last week revealed people who handled food must provide blood and stool samples, and $120 to cover costs of the lab tests.
Restaurants and other businesses have queried the procedures, however the health department said about 30 people have complied with the regulations without too much fuss.
Dr Masami Takeuchi, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation food safety officer, said most countries have guidelines which requires food business operators to follow the governmental advice on stool/blood testing “when necessary and appropriate”.
“Meaning that if there are any outbreaks or a need arises, the managers should be able to request food handlers to take the test,” Dr Takeuchi said.
“Quite a few countries have some regulations or mentions on stool testing in such guidelines, but in many cases, they are either not required on a regular basis or they are there without severe provisions against non-compliant situations.”
Karlene Taokia said food vendors need to be educated and possibly certified in a graded system.
For example, she said someone who had a market stall cannot have the same license as a resort because their clientele establishment and performance were totally different.
Taokia also said everyone who handles food should have a food and safety certificate.
“Our focus is safe food for our customers and ourselves. All food handlers need to be educated and compliant in every stage of food preparation, food handling and food serving.
“We all need to be aware of what we touch could potentially go in to our food.
“Essentially it is a good thing and a huge step forward to put a lid on food borne diseases and we must commend the Health department for taking this step, risking huge objections and repercussions from the general public.”