Vegetarians can now enjoy their meals without any worry when dining at cafeterias in government hospitals and other medical facilities.This follows a directive from the Health Ministry that these cafeteria operators must provide food that is strictly vegetarian to anyone who patronised their outlet.
Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the demand for vegetarian food from both patients and visitors to these facilities have been increasing. “This ruling is mandatory and it is my hope that all directors in the states, health institutes and hospitals will ensure it is complied with.”
In an immediate response, Malaysian Vegetarian Society (MVS) president Tracy Wong commended the ministry for the move. Wong said the MVS had also requested the ministry for such outlets to be opened up at R&R stops along the national highways. Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry decided to introduce the ruling after receiving many complaints from the public, especially those who had to stay at hospitals to look after their sick relatives.
With the new ruling, cafeteria operators have also been told to be sensitive to the needs of vegans who consumed only greens, lacto-vegetarians who also took milk and dairy products and lacto-ovo-vegetarians who were okay with eating eggs. “The cafeteria operators can based on the demand for such food, set up a special corner or designated area in their eatery for them.
“Proper and clear signages must be put up so that these are visible to patients, employees and visitors,” he said.
If demand for vegetarian food was small such as in smaller facilities, the operator was duty-bound to put up a sign that preparation will be done based on request.
“Operators must also be sensitive to the fact that the utensils including woks used to cook meat should not be used to prepare food for the vegetarians,” said Noor Hisham.
The ministry, he said would issue a set of comprehensive guidelines on the vegetarian diet in due course.
When contacted, MVS past-president Dr P. Vythilingam said he hoped the Education and Higher Education ministries would also introduce a similar ruling.
Dr Vythilingam, who is also president of the Asia-Pacific Vegetarian Union, said many students who are vegetarians are forced to bring food from home as canteens do not provide pure vegetarian food. “Such a move if implemented, would also help the Government tackle the problem of obesity among the young,” he said.