The Environmental Health Officers and environmental Health Technicians are responsible for monitoring public health standards in their respective areas and ensuring that the relevant public health legislation, such as the acts, by-laws and regulations are being complied with.
The majority of the inspections are carried out on various business premises, food outlets, health institutions, craches, pre-schools and residential premises. The section also investigates complaints.
Other functions include meat inspection, licensing of trade premises, registration of food premises, hairdressers, laundries, boarding houses and licensing vendors and hawkers. All health institutions are also inspected for registration with the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe.
All building plans submitted to Council are scrutinized for compliance with legislation whilst liquor licensing applications and inspections are carried out by this section. Premises dealing in hazardous substances are inspected for registration, as are nursery schools, craches, private school and commercial colleges.
Bacteriological swabs of food premises are taken for analysis whilst water samples are taken to monitor the quality of water supplies. The inspectorate, apart from issuing deposit fines for offences committed, prosecutes offenders in the court of law when necessary.
Air pollution control activities are also carried out. Bulawayo has been declared a smoke and dust control area. Sulphur dioxide and suspended particulates levels are monitored through samples collected at two sites
Food hygiene refers to all measures necessary to ensure the safety, soundness and wholesomeness of food at all stages from its growth, production or manufacture until its final consumption.
Food hygiene therefore, seeks to exclude contaminants from entering food. The contaminants can be broadly categorized into:
Contaminants cause food spoilage and food borne illnesses.Food borne illnesses and food borne injuries are at best unpleasant,at worst they can be fatal. Consequences of these are far reaching, outbreaks of food borne illnesses can damage trade and tourism and can lead to loss of earnings, unemployment and litigation. Food spoilage is wasteful.The Health Services Department through its Environmental Health practitioners regularly conducts inspections in food premises in order to safe guard public health.
In as far as food hygiene is concerned the Environmental Health Practitioners use largely the following pieces of legislation. Public Health Act Chapter 15.09, Food and Food Standards Act Chapter 15.04, Bulawayo (public Health) and (Registration of Premises) By laws.
Bulawayo (Registration of Premises) By laws stipulates the minimum requirements for various food premises. It deals with the design and fittings in food premises amongst other requirements. This piece of legislation aims to ensure that all food premises have the necessary facilities for the hygienic preparation of food.
The Bulawayo (Public Health) By-law has provisions which deal with how food premises are to be maintained and how a food handler should conduct himself/herself in food premises. According to this legislation all people working in food premises (food handlers) have to be medically examined. This is done to exclude people who are carriers of pathogenic micro organism from working in the food preparation area. When a food handler is suffering from cholera, shigella, flu, septic sores to name but a few they are not allowed to prepare food for the public.
Food and Food Standards Act and all the regulations made under it seek to ensure that the public gets to buy food which is wholesome and sound. Under this Act food has to be properly labeled. It has to have a physical address of where it is manufactured, ingredients, best before date and the wording on the label should not be misleading.
Furthermore this Act deals with:
a) Adulteration or false description of food
b) Control of sale, importation and manufacture of food
c) Control of mixed or compounded foods
d) Control of blended food.
The department also does food sampling to ascertain food quality either chemically or bacteriologically and normally a Food Technician would buy food samples from retail outlets and the samples are taken for analysis at the laboratory to ascertain if the physical, chemical or bacteriological parameters of that sample fall within the legal limits. Should they fall outside the legal limits the issue will be taken up with the manufacturer of that food with the view of taking remedial action or prosecution if warranted for.Food samples can also be taken in cases of suspected food borne illnesses or outbreaks.
A Food Technician is further tasked with taking microbiological swabs from food handlerâ€™s palms, under the finger nails, working surfaces, cutlery and plates. The results of these bacteriological swabs help the Environmental Health Officer to assess the food hygiene standard within the food premises.
Procedures for registering premises
The following premises are registrable in terms of the Bulawayo (Registration of Premises) By-laws.
In order for new premises to be registered the following have to be observed.
1. Be granted Town Planning approval to establish the proposed activity / business. This
however depends on the location of the premises and the proposed activity. Some activities
will not require Town Planning approval (development permit). For more information on
whether you will require to apply for Special Consent please contact the Town Planning
Section 7th Floor Tower Block.
2. Be in possession of an approved building plan and carry out all renovations in accordance with the approved plan.
3. Collect an inspection fee proforma invoice at First Floor Tower Block.Payment of this fee will enable the Environmental Health Officer to go and inspect the premises.
4. The aim of the inspection will be to assess whether the premises meet the minimum requirements and to advise on any issue which might need to be attended to.
5. If the premises meet the minimum requirements you will be advised to apply for a registration certificate.
6. If they do not, you will be advised in writing on what you need to attend to before you can be issued with a registration certificate.
7. A Registration Certificate will be valid up to 31 December of the current year and will have to be renewed annually.
8. For renewal, you fill in the Application for Registration Certificate form and pay the renewal fee.
9. The Registration Certificate will be renewed if your premises are satisfactory.
Note: This information serves only as a guideline, for exact advice on your premises you are encouraged to visit the Health Services Department, Environmental Health Branch in person.
Procedure for Licencing PremisesIn terms of the Shop Licences Act Chapter 14.17 no person shall in any shop, store or other fixed place of business, carry on the trade or business of selling or letting for hire any goods except in terms of a shop licence. To sell means to sell by retail or wholesale and include:- a) to exchange or barter b) to offer, keep or expose for sale
Therefore all premises where selling of goods takes place have to be licenced.The procedure for obtaining a new licence is as follows;
1. Apply for a Shop licence to the Chamber Secretary.Application Forms will be given
after paying the application and inspection fees.
2. The Forms given will enable you to concurrently apply for a trading licence and a trading permit.
3. As soon as an Environmental Health Officer receives your application for a trading permit he / she will visit your premises to assess if they are suitable for licencing.
4. If the premises are suitable your application for a trading permit will be approved.A trading permit is valid for three (3) months and allows you to commence trading whilst your trading licence is being processed.
5. An application for a trading licence is considered during monthly Council meetings. The Chamber Secretary will give you a date when your application will be heard by the Council and you will be required to place two notices in the local newspaper before this date. The first publication of notice (advert) shall be made between 28 â€“ 42 days before the date of the Council meeting. The second publication shall be not less than seven (7) or more than fourteen (14) days after the first publication.
6. An Environmental Health officer will recommend to Council (sitting as the Licencing Authority) either for the licence to be granted or not. This recommendation will be done after considering the proposed business, location of the premises and the facilities provided there in.
Should the recommendation be to grant the licence it can either be conditional or unconditional. When its conditional you will be issued with a conditional enabling certificate detailing the conditions you need to fulfill before a specified date. Applicants are normally given 90 (ninety) days in which to attend to the conditions. Should an applicant fail to comply within the ninety days he/she will be advised to cease operations and to start the application procedure after he / she has complied with the conditions. When there are no conditions attached to your being granted the licence an enabling certificate is issued.The enabling certificate allows you to be given the shop licence after paying the prescribed shop licence fees.The information given above is only for guideline purposes, for specific advice you are advised to contact your Environmental Health Officer or the Chamber Secretary.