THE recent outbreak of listeriosis in the country, which also affected the Nelson Mandela Bay area, has led to serious vigilance in monitoring of food business premises. Last week Wednesday, in the Korsten business area, the municipality’s environmental health directorate started an intensive programme of inspection, enforcement of compliance and closure of non-compliant food shops across the city. This programme is led by Mayoral Committee Member for Public Health councillor Lance Grootboom. In a statement, municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said the programme included environmental health, waste management, safety and security, and fire and emergency. “The team of dedicated officials checked compliance issues like safe food preparation, storage handling of food products that are meant for public consumption and waste management. “They also checked whether the premises are compliant with fire and emergency regulations,” Mniki explained. He said the operation was planned to cover the whole Nelson Mandela Bay area “The ultimate goal is to ensure that operators who prepare and serve food within the Nelson Mandela Bay do that as per environmental health rules and regulations, and in full compliance with the municipal by-laws.” The team of about 50 municipal officials went out to different shops around the Korsten area and during the operation, 61 premises were visited. “This led to the closure of 45 premises that did not have certificates of acceptability. “A certificate of acceptability is issued in terms of the National Foodstuffs, Disinfectant and Cosmetics Act. “It is a health certificate which is issued to a food shop when they comply with all the health requirements, as required by the Act. “Waste disposal was also found to be a serious problem as 60 of the visited businesses did not have a waste removal contract, as required. The officials also confiscated foodstuffs from seven shops,” Mniki said. Speaking to some of the shop owners and street vendors in front of one of the shops that was closed, Grootboom said the intention of the municipality was to promote hygiene and make sure that businesses that handle food comply with the law. “We have committed to creating a safe city for all the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay. It is important as public health directorate to make sure that the food they buy is safe. “We will be working with businesses here, including those who do not comply to make sure that they comply. “Our main intention is not to close them down, it is to make sure that they operate within the law and our residents are safe,” Grootboom said. Deputy Director for Environmental Health Dr Partick Nodwele said the operation will be going to other hot spot areas that have been identified already. “Part of this programme is to empower them with knowledge so that it is easy for them to comply. In situations where we see that allowing them to continue while fixing their problems will be too risky for consumers; we will be forced to close their premises up until compliance issues have been sorted out,” Nodwele said.