The Municipal Health Department issued notices certifying the hygiene of just 13 restaurants in Phnom Penh following health inspections of the capital’s 634 registered eateries over the course of 2010, officials said on Tuesday.
Sok Sokun, director of the municipal Department of Health, said the logos, which declare the restaurants to be “Clean, Green, Beautiful and Safe” and will be displayed for customer information, were only awarded to establishments that satisfied a list of 51 criteria set by the Ministry of Health.
The standards, he said, require that the restaurants; use produce that contains no harmful chemicals, prohibit live animals from being kept inside and insist that staff wash their hands before preparing food, among other things.
“We have set 51 conditions for restaurant owners [to meet] and the conditions are very difficult,” Sok Sokun said.
Foreign-owned restaurants fared well during health assessments, he said, because “their toilets and kitchens are placed far apart, but Khmer-owned restaurants have toilets and kitchens near each other”.
Ang Hok Srun, chief of the Health Ministry’s Food Safety Bureau, said Tuesday that customers could be assured that restaurants displaying the new logos had “total food safety”.
Sok Sokun said the 621 restaurants that failed the inspections would not face any immediate consequences.
“We cannot take serious measures against them because firstly, it affects on their income, and secondly, they are used to their old way of doing things, so changing their habits requires time,” he said.
The logo scheme was introduced at the end of 2009, when officials decided that the restaurant scene was ready to be held to more rigorous standards of hygiene.
“Before, it was difficult to decide to give them logos because they liked to use their old habits without being sanitary,” Sok Sokun said.
He said the system had not been introduced outside the capital yet, noting that it might take health officials “four more years to educate [provincial] restaurant owners” about the standards. Phnom Penh’s many unlicensed restaurants also were not inspected, he added.
Kim Liza, 28, owner of Guitar d’Amour restaurant in Phnom Penh, said she had yet to receive the logo to go with her hygiene certification, but hoped it would bear fruit.
“We hope in the future we will receive the logo and attract more clients to eat at our restaurant,” she said.