KATHMANDU, June 9: We love eating and drinking. At every place you drop by to grab a snack or enjoy a hearty meal, you’ll certainly see at least a few people there.
Your local momo place, your chowk’s pani puri stall, the numerous bakery cafes lining the streets of Kathmandu or the food courts in our malls, we have sampled and savored the delicacies available.
In today’s age, we cannot avoid eating and drinking outside. Sometimes, our hunger drives us to eat and sometimes we eat because we cannot fight the temptation of the aromas that waft up and catch us unawares. We eat during lunch breaks, after a long and tired day of shopping and we also end up drinking endless cups of tea while waiting for someone.
But when it comes down to the hygiene of the place you are eating at, or more precisely the food you are eating, how aware are you?
To discuss the topic, Republica caught up with Bishwas Chepang, 19, a student of Bachelor’s in Business Studies at Nepal Commerce Campus; Yogesh Shrestha, 21, a Bachelor’s of Business Administration student at Thames International College; Anamika Malla, 19, a student of Advanced College of Engineering and Management doing her Civil Engineering; and Shrijana Subba, 23, a Bachelor’s student in Business Studies from Mahendra Multiple Campus.
How often do you eat out? Are you aware of the health hazards of eating outside?
Bishwas: I’ve avoided street food ever since I had a bad experience while eating pani puri in Kupondole. Though the food looks tempting, most often the person serving us has dirty fingernails and it’s a complete turnoff. However, I do eat in restaurants.
Yogesh: I often eat outside even though I know of the health risks involved. I usually go with my friends and cousins. Street food is cheaper and looks very appealing, too.
Anamika: I’m a big fan of street foods. Yes, I know how dirty those places are but who can resist pani puri? We leave our homes in the morning and return only in the evenings, so we have to eat somewhere during the day. We don’t have much choice, and since our pocket money is limited, we can’t afford to eat in restaurants or fancy places on a daily basis. I’m just thankful I haven’t fallen really ill till now. So I’ve been okay with street foods. When we go to restaurants, we don’t know what’s really happened while our dish was being prepared. We just see our food and it looks and tastes good. So I feel what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
Shrijana: I go to the stalls in my chowk and when I go out, it’s KFC in Durbar Marg and New Dish in New Road.
From (L) to (R) Yogesh Shrestha, Shrijana Subba, Anamika Malla and Bishwas Chepang
In spite of being aware, why do you think most people eat out anyway?
Yogesh: Most of us are bound by budget restrictions which often make us compromise. Hence, we end up eating out.
Anamika: I think it also has to do with convenience. And for me, if I get sick, I’ll keep a gap of at least 2/3 months but I would still go.
Does it matter to you if restaurants have an open-kitchen policy?
Bishwas: This is not a popular concept in Nepal.
Shrijana: It would be good if we had something like that. At least, we can feel secure regarding the hygienic issues of the foods we’re about to eat.
In the light of the recent Gudpak and KFC food safety reports in the newspapers, have you started avoiding these places or it doesn’t matter to you?
Shrijana: Despite knowing the reports, I still go there and it’s not because it doesn’t make a difference to me. I feel that even such places must have taken the charges seriously and done something to counter that and provide us with better quality food now.
Yogesh: We don’t have much option, do we? For a person who loves the ‘finger licking good’ chicken from KFC, he doesn’t really have an option, so he might continue going there.
Do you think the quality control people are doing their job well?
Shrijana: They may do a good job for the time being when the issue is fresh but I don’t believe they continue with the inspections after a certain time.
Anamika: We can’t say anything because we don’t see if they are continuing checking those places and whether their orders are being followed. It’s their responsibility to not only tell us it’s unsafe to eat the gudpak but also when it’s okay for us to do so.
Do you think restaurants are aware of the health risks for their customers?
Yogesh: Yes, because the restaurants know that only a satisfied customer will come back. If something goes wrong, there are chances that a customer won’t come back.
Bishwas: I think it depends on what type of business they have. Some might just be aiming for a short-term business where the owner wants to make as much profit in the shortest possible time. They don’t care. And the businessmen who want to stick with it for longer will be more conscious of health hazards.
If you had the choice to enjoy your favorite dish, would you do it at home or outside?
Shrijana: I would opt to go out. It’s fun at home but going out is a change from the normal routine.
Yogesh: I would prefer to stay home because I think we have more fun if we cook something together at home.