GEORGE TOWN - The Penang Government's move to ban foreigners from being the main cooks of local hawker fare effective Jan 1 2016, received the thumbs up from the majority of hawkers and related associations.
Penang Consumer Protection Association president K. Koris Atan said he supported the effort and urged the state government to immediately enforce the ban.
"Why does the state need to give a grace period? When the foreigners are brought into the country to work, they are categorised as cleaners, construction workers or even cooks.
"The authorities must conduct regular checks and penalise those who disobey the ban," he said when contacted yesterday.
Penang Hawkers Association chairman Lam Tong Ying also supported the ban.
"Penang is a preferred destination when it comes to hawker food. Tourists from all around the world travel to Penang for its local food so we must maintain the standard.
"The ban will help maintain the standard of our local food, unlike in Kuala Lumpur where foreigners are mainly the cooks," he said.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the move was to preserve the authenticity of the state's local flavours.
Lim added that all hawkers operating at coffee shops, hawker complexes, shopping mall food courts and roadside stalls should do away with employing foreigners as their main cooks and ensure that "only locals or Malaysian citizens" cooked their fare.
"Foreigners can still be hired to do the washing, handle orders or assist in preparing ingredients, but not to do the cooking," he told a press conference in Komtar yesterday.
Lim said hawkers would be given a one-year grace period starting from Jan 1 next year, to enable them to adjust to the new regulation.
"This period is also to enable the Penang and Seberang Prai municipal councils the time to study and refine the implementation of this new regulation," he added.
He said the regulation was to maintain and ensure that the unique tastes and flavours of local food would be retained to safeguard Penang's food heritage, and to help ensure that foreigners would not take over Penang's hawker food business.