AM. SAMOA HEALTH DEPARTMENT WARNS ROADSIDE SELLERS

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Fish will be confiscated if not in coolers

By Tina Mata’afa

PAGO PAGO, America Samoa (Samoa News, April 9, 2009)— The Environmental Health division of the Department of Health continues to crack down on stores selling expired food items, residents with unkempt home surroundings — and now — fishermen who sell their catch on the roadside in hanging displays. DOH environmental health chief, Sigafili Leiato, said local subsistence fishermen have already been warned about hanging fish up in the open air.

"Just last week we notified fish vendors [who] were selling fish alongside the road to stop selling those fishes," said Sigafili. "We’ve already talked to them and starting from now on we will be issuing citations for those who are selling fish and displaying... by hanging them."

He noted health concerns of dust, flies and sunlight that can easily contaminate the fish are especially an issue.

All fishermen who wish to sell their catch to the public need to obtain a permit and those who hold the proper permits have already been informed of the conditions and health requirements, said Sigafili.

Those who are caught selling fish that are hung from a stick or on a string will have their catch taken away, said the EHC, emphasizing fishermen who violate health codes will receive citation(s).

"We want to tell all these fish sellers this, so they can get their permit and sell their fish the right way," he advised. "If you fish, you can sell your fish provided you sell it in a cooler with ice... not up there hanging... the bad thing about it, is that there’s dust and it’s been hanging there most of the day."

Two fishermen from Faleniu, who were selling their catch alongside the road in Utulei yesterday — some of their catch displayed on a string tied to a stick while some were in a cooler — said the hanging display is a more attractive way to sell their fish, as it lures in motorists who can see the fresh merchandise at a passing glance.

They told Samoa News they have a DOH permit and a license from the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources and added they know the health code.

They then received a surprise visit from DOH Acting Director Tuiasina Laumoli, who warned them they were violating health regulations.

The men immediately took down a string of "alogo" and put it in their cooler. Tuiasina advised them to use a large sign (as they had a small one) to advertise their catch as opposed to hanging the fish up. Minutes before Tuiasina stopped by, they had sold a large beautiful orange-reddish "mufiloa" that had been hanging up.

STORE INSPECTIONS

Sigafili said DOH is continuing its inspection of retail stores, which number about 280 and they have visited stores in the east and west, resulting in truckloads of confiscations of expired goods being dumped at the Futiga landfill. (Samoa News has published several photos of the expired goods being dumped in its editions this week.)

"We are taking a lot of stuff from most of the stores and we are also issuing them citations for selling expired food items and merchandise with no labels or non-English labels," said Sigafili.

Two teams of four men each have been carrying out store inspections since last month.

Sigafili warned store owners a third offense will not only result in confiscation of expired food items and citations but store closure and revocation of health permits as well.

"We keep telling them comply and not to sell expired stuff... the third time we visit and they are selling expired stuff we are going to close them down," he noted. "We have not done it before but we are going to do it... [if] they don’t want to comply. Every now and then they sell expired food stuff. We need to go the extreme so they will stop selling expired stuff."

He said the usual $50 fine for not complying with health codes is not enough to keep store owners from selling the banned goods, "so that’s why we are going that route."

He said some stores found in violation last year have also been found in violation this time around. If during a third visit a store, it’s found to be selling expired food items again, the store will be shut down.

Sigafili says they are almost finished with all the stores.

VILLAGE INSPECTIONS

EHC Sigafili says village inspections where unkempt home surroundings will warrant a citation from DOH, pointing to citations issued in Leloaloa and Atu’u.

He explains village inspections will continue to the west side toward Nu’uuli, Tafuna and Ili’ili where Flag Day celebrations will be held next week.

"Some families comply, but there are still those who are negligent and those are the families we really enforce — so we give them citations for overgrown grass and trash," Sigafili said.

Following their Tafuna area inspections, DOH will come back to the town area — Utulei and Fagatogo, where Sigafili said "there is so much trash."

"It’s nice out there on the main road but when you go inside the village, there is so much trash and overgrowth" he noted. "It’s a shame. We are coming to those villages. We are now in Nu’uuli, will move on to Tafuna and come back and finish the east from Aua to Onenoa."

He thanked families who make it a point to clean up around their homes and warned — those who are being "negligent" will be cited.

RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS

Sigafili explained that stores also selling "fast food" items hold two permits — one for the store and another to sell food as a restaurant.

He said there are about 290 establishments deemed restaurants and after store inspections have been completed, DOH’s Environmental Health Division will begin its inspections of restaurants.

"So we’re advising restaurant owners to get their act straight," Sigafili said.

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