Malaysians have a tendency of wasting food, especially during the Ramadan month. -NSTP/SYARAFIQ ABD SAMAD

KUALA LUMPUR: The Food Bank Malaysia programme introduced by the government must have proper standard operating procedures (SOP) and logistics to encourage hotels to participate, says Malaysian Association of Hotels president Samuel Cheah Swee Hee.

According to him, hotels need to be assured of several factors before they commit to distributing leftovers or surplus food out of their premises to the public.

Cheah said contamination was among the major concerns when it came to distributing food out of hotels.

“You need to determine it is not contaminated, because if it is, it may cause food poisoning. The food must be kept and transported at the correct temperature."

According to Cheah, several hotels have already been participating in a food contribution programme with local surplus food rescue group Food Aid Foundation for the past few years.

He said this was not only done specifically during the month of Ramadan, but throughout the year.

He said the hotels have full trust in the foundation, which has its own kitchen and thorough SOP in collecting the surplus food.

“Food Aid does the necessary testing to determine its status before distribution,” he added.

Cheah was responding to the call by Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail to hotels nationwide to participate in the Food Bank Malaysia programme.

Besides collecting and distributing food for the needy, the programme is also aimed at reducing food wastage during the holy month, he had said.

When asked if he would encourage hotels to join the programme, Cheah urged Saifuddin to “reach out to them” as they have yet to communicate with one another.

He said although Saifuddin had been quoted as saying that the food’s halal status, cleanliness and safety were guaranteed as it came from the hotels, the hotels needed assurance that the same standards were adhered when it was transported out and distributed.

Cheah added hotels were also taking a lot of efforts in cutting down food wastage by doing live cooking buffets, thus avoiding a surplus of cooked food.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners executive director Shaharuddin M. Saaid said most international hotel brands would not release food outside their premises after three hours, for fear of contamination.

He said this was to protect their brands, as they were unsure how the food would be treated.

The smaller hotels, he said, might not have much issues compared to the four or five star brands as they were not subjected to international regulations.

Shaharuddin also said many hotels were already contributing to food banks now, especially those in the Klang Valley and Penang.