Meat on the move - in the boot of a car.
oor hygiene practices mean that the majority of meat-based sandwiches sold on the
streets of Phnom Penh are bacterially contaminated, according to a year-long study
conducted by the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge and health officials.
Dr Koeut Meach is vice director at the Municipal Health Department (MHD), and worked
with the institute on the study. He blamed contaminated meat used in the sandwiches,
and said that those who eat contaminated sandwiches risk stomach pains, diarrhea,
vomiting and fever.
The MHD worked with four pate makers to ensure their products were safe. The vendors
were taught practical hygiene measures such as proper meat storage.
Mol Chanda, health promotion administrator, said that his researchers analyzed the
pate on a weekly basis and did medical examinations on the workers. He said that
these vendors' pate products, which are still analyzed monthly, were safe.
While the MHD focused only on meat production, the Institut Pasteur concentrated
on the entire sandwich production process, part of the organisation's probe into
food safety. For the first part in the four-phase study, which began in July 2000,
the institute selected six vendors and checked the levels of bacteria in their sandwiches.
Among the catalogue of contamination, they found strains of bacteria such as staphylococcus
aureus, salmonella, ecoli, and fecal coliforms (colon bacteria).
First phase results showed that 25 per cent of the sandwiches were of good quality,
which meant these could be consumed without a health risk. Phase two started in October,
2000 with two sites selected. After notifying sandwich vendors of the impending test,
the institute found that 30 per cent of the sandwiches were of good quality.
For the third phase the institute selected only two vendors and implemented, in December
2000, its Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). The HACCP process allows
scrutiny of each step of the sandwich-making process.
After implementing HACCP, the percentage of safe sandwiches increased first to 45
per cent and then to 50 per cent. However, the institute noticed a drop to 40 percent
during the next phase, but as it has not yet tabulated the results, it is not sure
of the reasons.
MHD's Meach emphasised that it was not only meat that contributed to bacterial contamination:
ingredients such as fermented and fresh vegetables, mayonnaise, and seasonings could
also cause illness.
The report recommended that ingredients be stored and handled carefully and vendors
taught hygienic practices such as wearing aprons and keeping fingernails short.
To spread the message more widely, Meach and Chanda screened a television program
to educate people about the importance of hygienic practices.
Although the Institut Pasteur and the Municipal Health Department have worked with
some sandwich and pate vendors, there is no guarantee that sandwiches bought on the
street are safe.