Hygiene and the informal economy

Florida has an ideal climate to retire to and, with tourist magnets like Disney World at Orlando, to chill out in. This makes for high demand on the hospitality and service sector in general and this in turn drives a demand for labour mainly from the informal market. Leaving aside the the labour issues of the grey or parallel economy let’s turn to hygiene factors; the hospitality industry in the developed world, other emerging tourist hot spots and then, consider the signicance of these issues elsewhere – along the supply chain in general.

Back to Florida – originally, Black Americans worked the restaurants, bars and tourist attractions but by the 1970s, Haitians and Hispanics (mostly Cubans) started to enter the service sector especially behind the scenes in food preparation and as dishwashers. The contrast with the pleasing environment front of house and the kitchen can be stark as corners on operating costs and hygiene standards are cut.


These same issues are apparent in many of the restaurants run in China towns (or other ethnic theme restaurants) all over the developed world. In fact, small ethnically based restaurants, staffed by immigrants, dominate many urban centres and operational and hygiene standards are a major issue. Increasingly, this is as crucial an issue to anywhere that seeks a slice of the global tourism market. Take Thailand.


In Thailand, restaurants and street vendors can easily be found along the streets of Bangkok and many tourist attractions. More and more Thais eat out rather than at home and tourists eat often on the move. The food looks great but is it safe? 

Since 1989, the department of Health together with the Tourism Authority of Thailand have been working on a project to assure the good sanitation of all restaurants and street vendors. The “Clean Food Good Taste” Project directly benefits people in this food service sector and the tourists who know that the food they eat looks and taste goods but alos meets the highest hygiene standards. After 2 years 5,377 restaurants (of 11,731 applied) and 3,045 vendors (of 6,843 applied) have passed the criteria. Thirty percent are randomly assessed twice a year. If good sanitation is not found, the award and logo are revoked. [i]


This project is focussed on three objectives:  

  1. To reduce the risk of foodborne disease
  2. To promote clean and good sanitary food service in tourist areas and around the country
  3. To support and encourage local authorities in managing safe food for consumers and tourists in their areas

Similar projects were run in Qatar during the Asia Games 2006 and the concept could be of immense value in India – with its rapidly expanding tourism industry and, the Commonwealth Games to come.

However, India illustrates how this central hygiene issue could have wider significance along the supply chain. Conditions for truck drivers in India are poor. Poor infrastructure is one thin; corruption at state borders is another but the lack of adequate lodging and food facilities along the road network is a major cause for concern. 


Given the poor quality of hostelries and food available on the road – not to mention security and corruption – is it any wonder that there is a shortfall currently of 500,000 truck drivers in India? A project such as the Thai example would make a major contribution to the standards of driving. It would even make a serious impact upon traffic accidents.


Hygiene awareness and operating practice is a signicant agenda. Does anybody have a case study to illustrate the point or, illustrate ways to move forward?


[i] Food Sanitation Standard for Street Foods, Thailand. 2001.

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