Today’s Opinion: Name and shame

POSTED: 03/16/11 12:37 PM

Do we need our health inspectors to troll supermarkets on a 24/7 basis? This seems to be necessary, given the fact that they were forced to close down a supermarket in Sucker garden last week.

It is not the first time that inspectors come down on a supermarket that ignores all rules and regulations concerning health and hygiene. It will also not be the last time.

In law enforcement, cynics sometimes observe that with the level of crime the island experiences, there is a high level of job security. The same could be said for the inspectors that look after the state of businesses that sell perishable goods to local consumers.

It is naïve to think that one day supermarket owners will come to their senses, and start doing what they have to do. While we are careful not to stereotype (in the sense of: all gypsies are thieves, or all supermarket owners take the Mickey out of health and hygiene regulations), we have a firm impression that many more supermarkets – and not only the smaller ones – are struggling to keep their house in order.

Every customer is able to see with her or his own eyes what is going on in our stores. We all have held a limp salad, an expired pot of yoghurt, or a box of cookies no longer fit for human consumption.

The question is: what did we do when we made such a discovery?


Most of us have become such animals of convenience that we do not want to ruin our Saturday shopping experience by engaging in an argument with a supermarket owner. We prefer to put back that limp salad, to turn away from the bad yoghurt, and to grab something else. That’s easier and there is no fuss. Let someone else get stuck with those bad products.

We do in no way approve of sloppy store owners who are either too lazy or to disorganized to get expired products in a timely manner off the shelves. But as customers we also have a role to play, a responsibility to take.

When reporting bad products to the store-owner has no effect, customers have the option to choose another establishment for their shopping. Unfortunately, they might run into the same problem there. But doing nothing is not an option.

Only if enough people complain will store-owners realize that they have to clean up their store, and their act. If complaining to the store-owner does not help, there is always the health and hygiene inspectorate. When that department visits, the resulting publicity is seldom good.

What we propose is the American name, shame and blame system: a weekly public report by the inspectorate, with updates about the status of the stores that have been visited. After all, the public has a right to know which businesses think it is okay to put their customer’s health at risk


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