By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
THE horrifying accident that killed 18-year-old Joemar Jungco on June 22, 2019 in La Paz, Iloilo City has again brought to fore the underlying issues of sanitation, safety, and security of food establishments in the city.
Jungco, who has been working for only two weeks at Akhira Frozen Foods in Barangay Mansaya, La Paz, was accidentally gobbled by a mechanical meat mixer that was processing chorizo meat on Saturday, based on the police investigation.
Testimonies revealed that the teenager might have grown curious and tried to operate the mixer, which later wolfed him down and pinned his upper torso.
Iloilo City Health Office head Bernard Caspe said Akhira Frozen Foods has all the necessary documents for its operation but Jungco lacked a health card required for food handlers.
“Right after the incident, gintawgan ko aton city inspector to inspect sa area kay gin-check namon ang sanitary permits niya. Hambal sang inspector ko, may ara man sila sanitary and business permit except sa health card. So far wala to siya health card, kay bag-o pa lang siya, two weeks pa lang siya nagwork,” he said.
According to Caspe, a health card is a requirement for employees who are working or handling food.
“Ang health card is usually mandatory for all those people nga naga-handle food so before ka mag-start sa establishment, dapat may health card na,” he emphasized.
Following the incident, Caspe emphasized that the employees should observe proper paraphernalia while working inside the establishment or handling food.
“So far supposed to be kon ara ka sa establishment, may proper ka na paraphernalia like kon food gina-handle mo – naga hairnet ka, facemask, may apron ka kag naga-gloves ka dapat. Amo gid na ang procedure, I don’t know sa case ya kay daw naka-short (pants) lang gani siya,” he said.
Each restaurant or food establishment should also have their own food safety personnel, Caspe added.
“Supposedly each establishment dapat may ara food safety personnel nga siya na dapat nga in-house, every food establishments para sa purpose nga i-train mo ang personnel and i-brief sila kon ano dapat ubrahon, kag kon ano ka delikado ang machine but some of the establishments refuse because kamahal kuno,” he said.
He said that he is still not sure if the city government is open to sponsoring an ordinance requiring all food establishments to have their own safety personnel.
Every day, Caspe said that they are conducting sanitary inspections on establishments all around the metro.
But he admitted that there are only 16 inspectors and cannot cover the whole area of Iloilo City.
“Sige-sige every day galibot ang inspector indi ka ka-renew sang sanitary permit kon wala ka sang inspection report that is why galibot ang personnel every day. Ugaling on how frequent depende na ya kay kalapad-lapad sang city,” he said.
Data from the CHO revealed that 10,314 establishments in Iloilo City were issued sanitary permits in 2018.
Aside from conducting sanitary inspections, Caspe added that their department has also been organizing training on food handlers yearly to equip them with measures and techniques on food preparation.
As of now, the meat mixer machine which was involved in the accident will have to be disassembled and disinfected, according to Caspe.
“We told the owner na indi pag gamiton ang machine for the mean time kay duha ang machine, ang isa lang anay gamiton for operation kay dapat i-sterilize mo ang area, i-disinfect mo ang machine and dapat disassemble gid anay. If indi ma-disassemble, we can recommend nga mag-purchase na lang sila sang bag-o,” he said.
Dr. Florentino “Tino” Alerta, an accredited Occupational Safety and Health Practitioner and president of the Western Visayas Occupational Safety and Health Network, Inc. (WVOSHNet, Inc.), said he already forwarded news items and photos of the incident to labor authorities.
Alerta also observed the lack of a “dead man’s” or emergency switch which the workers could punch in case someone gets trapped in a machine.
He also noted that Jungco was not wearing sanitation or hygiene equipment which is mandatory in food processing.
“And also, why was the victim allowed to be in the machinery area when he was inexperienced. There was no supervisor in the area. We saw many deficiencies which the labor department should look into,” he said.