Sunday, April 26, 2009

The ABCs of hawker hygiene

There are no grey areas: Food is either clean enough or it is not

Subana Hall

SO, IT is not just the dismal economy we are up against, it seems; there are other issues, too.

First, there is the on-going and deep-rooted confusion between kindness and mannerisms.

For some bizarre reason, we seem to think that being kind is the same as having good mannerisms. (Sigh and excuse me, please.)

Then, there is the debate over the state of Singapore’s spoken English.

Oh and let’s not forget the transport trouble ... the way we allow people to travel on lorries without shelter and seat belts. Isn’t that simply hazardous, and isn’t that really Third World?

And now the latest: We face the battle of the bacteria, in which how food stall hygiene is graded seems to be inverse to how good the food tastes.

Singapore is a society that thrives on grading. We grade everything, even our children.

Therefore, the concept of grading how clean a food stall is should come as no surprise... except that it is ridiculous!

What exactly do grades A or B or C mean in terms of hygiene? Such grading would only make any sense if we are grading the taste of the food being served. Even then, it would not be accurate because taste is subjective.

Sometimes, I joke with my friends that the grading of a stall’s hygiene is inversely proportional to the taste of the food from that stall. Well, that is not funny anymore.

Our fantasy or obsession with grading has to stop somewhere. Should we grade our spouses, parents and politicians too?

The grading system simply cannot be applicable to everything, especially hygiene. A stall is either clean or not clean enough to serve food to the public. How could we settle for anything less?

So, even if we can’t agree on good manners or speaking good English or having a safe standard practice for transport, at least let’s be clear about hygiene, because that is, after all, pretty basic.

How could we claim to be world-class otherwise?

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From TODAY, Voices – Monday, 20-April-2009