KUALA LUMPUR: An apple a day will not keep the doctor away, especially when Malaysians do not even know how to handle fresh food.

“Apples and pears are very ‘sensitive’. When apples arrive here whether from New Zealand or South Africa, workers just take a bucket and pour it into a container.

“Apples cannot withstand such treatment.

“You won’t see it immediately but you will see the damage the next day,” said EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce Industry (EUMCCI) deputy chairman Daniel Pans.

“This leads to wastage. And the remaining apples in good condition become more expensive,” he said.

The EUMCCI is organising the inaugural two-day EU-Asean Forum on Food Safety which begins here today.

Pans stressed that everyone had a part to play – the consumer, the people in the distributing chain, the manufacturers and the regulators.

“Apples here get rotten faster because of how they are being handled,” he said.

However, he said the problem here was that consumers did not seem to mind.

He cited how supermarket staff would drop the apples on the scale or fling them into a bag.

“If consumers are aware of this, they can tell the cashier to be careful with the fruits or else refuse to buy them.

“When the supervisor sees the consumer is not happy, he will be forced to train his staff,” he added.

Pans said he believed the main reason for sick leave in Malaysia was due to food poisoning.

He cited another example of workers off-loading ice cream into a freezer, close to lunch hour.

“They leave the cold food in 35˚C and go for their lunch break. If it is left for a short time, it may not be contaminated but the quality is affected,” he said.

“You should not be able to push the sides in. Otherwise, it means that it had melted during the handling process but frozen again later,” he said.

Pans spoke of the necessity of the people in the supply chain to properly train their staff to ensure they handle food with care.

He also noted a “strange” pattern in the consumption of healthy food in the region.

“People here are willing to pay a lot for the best kind of infant formula. This goes on until the child is about four years old. After that, they frequent fast food outlets and all the health concerns go out the window.

“There is no reason why a 10-year-old or a 30-year-old should eat less healthy food. Healthy food should remain a concern throughout the years,” Pans said.

When the consumer only looked at price, he said, manufacturers would resort to cutting its cost to drop prices, and the value of the food also dropped.

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