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Government Seeks to Up Penalties for Public Health Infractions

The Ministry of Health is looking to review its public health laws with an aim at strengthening the penalties for non-compliance.  The notice of the revision came via a press release that sought to clarify a current discussion on social media.  Reports are that in early October, a food establishment in Belmopan was closed down due to public health infractions ranging from unsanitary conditions to rodent infestation.  Upon investigation into the incident the ministry with support from the Belmopan City Council had the establishment shut down until measures were taken to address the issues.  The restaurant was re-opened a few days later following a full inspection of the facility.  Seemingly, the discussions on the incident continue on social media and with that the release noted, quote, “The public is hereby notified that the case now being posted on social media is late posting of the event and not a new situation after our intervention. The Ministry of Health remains vigilant on this matter and has instructed a comprehensive inspection of all facilities in the neighbourhood to include private premises.  To support this activity the Public Health laws are also being reviewed to include stronger penalties for those not in compliance. The Ministry of Health takes this opportunity to encourage the public to officially report any public issues of concern to the Public Health Department in your district so we can take the necessary action and protect the public.”  End of quote.  Currently, the penalties for public health infractions are at the sole discretion of the magistrate as there is no range for fines that can be levied but the Ministry of Health does reserve the authority to shut down the business if necessary.  John Bodden, the Principal Public Health Inspector for Belize gave a comment to Love News, saying, quote, “the laws are very old and one of the significant weaknesses is the lack of specific penalties and there is a need for the development of a food safety regulation that would target specific infractions.”  End of quote.