Stallholder ejected over licence mixup

Woman 'humiliated' when told to leave

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 08:45 03/12/2013
Stall holder
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

SENT PACKING: Spicy Affair owner Nazia Asif was stopped from selling food at the annual Red Cross market in Palmerston North.

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A Palmerston North woman running a food stall at the Red Cross Christmas fair says she was humiliated when organisers told her to pack up and go home.

The fair convenor said he was acting under the Palmerston North City Council's advice, but the council says it didn't have any information about stallholders from the fair convener or it would have helped them to meet regulations earlier.

Nazia Asif, who runs Spicy Affair, an Indian and Pakistani takeaway shop in College St, said she thought she had all bases covered to run a stall at The Square last Saturday - including holding a current food permit and food hygiene training certificates.

But Mrs Asif was missing the required high-risk mobile vendor licence needed under the city council's safe-food bylaw to comply with an open-air market in The Square.

She said she checked with fair organisers and received a confirmation letter from convenor Roger Foster, saying that there were no restrictions on what vendors may sell, though terms and conditions said a valid "food permit" must be held.

Mrs Asif attached her store's permit to the registration form, thinking it would suffice, and paid an $80 registration fee. At that stage there was no word of any problem.

On the day she set up a makeshift stall, including tables, a gazebo and bains-marie, and prepared more than $1500 worth of food, including curries, rice and naan bread.

Within an hour the council's environmental health officer, Ana da Cunha, and Mr Foster asked her to pack up and leave, in front of customers, because she didn't have the correct licence.

"I was embarrassed. It's not just the humiliation that was created by this, there were so many people watching.

"It's not about the money, it's about my reputation," Mrs Asif said.

She said she wished she was told earlier so she could have been spared the public embarrassment.

Ms da Cunha said Mrs Asif required a specific kind of licence to serve at a market because she made "high-risk food" - anything with milk products, eggs, rice, meat, poultry, fish or shellfish.

The same rules apply for food at Saturday morning fruit and vegetable markets and for the fulltime Square mobile food vendors.

"We're not here to make anybody's life hard, we're just trying to make sure the people who buy food are safe," Ms da Cunha said.

Requiring Mrs Asif to leave could have been prevented if the council had seen a list of stallholders and was able to check the licences before the market, but that didn't happen, Ms da Cunha said.

Mr Foster said stallholders' information was sent to the council, but admitted this was late in the piece.

He said Mrs Asif seemed to be "pushing the boundaries" and knew the council's requirements.

"We try to keep it as flexible as possible . . . we were having a fundraising event and this is unfortunate. I personally wished it hadn't happened."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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