14 September 2008

Food Quality -- Jakarta

This is scary but is it all that surprising? Food quality is an important issue, particularly food hygiene and how it is handled and disposed of.

The Deputy Governor of Jakarta, Prijanto, has called on the community to be more vigilant and to report irregularities. This call to action comes after rotten meat was found in local markets. As a matter of interest who remembered that Prijanto was the Deputy Governor of Jakarta. Has anyone heard his name uttered since he was chosen to be the No. 2?

This is scary because I try and do the right thing and buy local, support my local community, and buy my fresh food stuffs from local market vendors. My local market does not sell Vegemite and other "essentials" so I have to go to a supermarket for some of the basic necessities.

This is also not surprising when one considers there was a bit of an uproar when it was publicly confirmed that bakso sellers were treating their meatballs with formaldehyde to make the meat last longer.

The basic complaints in the market meat trade are that the meat is not fresh or that some vendors actually dye pork meat red and then sell it off as beef. The big concern is that some unscrupulous vendors are visiting garbage dumps where it is known that hotels and restaurants dump their out-of-date meat and the vendors then collect it for "recycling". Recycling in this sense means that the meat is dyed to make it look fresh, repackaged, and then sold as fresh meat. This certainly gives new meaning to the idea of waste not want not.

It is worth noting that this is reasonably big business as the repackaged meat can be sold for up to IDR 100,000. This makes recycled meat a nice little income earner. The health benefits aside of course. And with Eid approaching the fresh meat market is likely to see prices spiral even higher. Funnily enough the government has warned people to be wary of low-priced meat. But, there is nothing low-priced about meat selling at IDR 100,000 per kilo.

It seems that the beef market is not the only one where unscrupulous traders are operating. The government is also reporting that it has found inflated chickens in the Kemiri Muka market. Inflated chickens sound like some kind of fetish sex toy. However, it turns out that vendors are sealing the chickens and then using a bicycle tyre pump to inflate the chickens to make them look a little better fed than they really are. It must be noted that inflated chickens are probably not the same health risk that rotten meat is.

Some might think that I am being critical of Indonesia and wonder why I hate Indonesia so, and if I hate Indonesia so then why do I choose to live here and stay here. For those of you pondering such deep philosophical questions, here is my answer. I am writing about things that interest me. Sometimes these musings might paint a less that stellar picture of Jakarta, but this should never be construed as me hating Jakarta or thinking anything less of Jakarta or her citizens. To the contrary, it is these very experiences that make Jakarta what it is. Can it be frustrating, yes! But these frustrations are not just frustrations for foreigners, they are frustrations endured (enjoyed) by Indonesians as well.



Anonymous said...

Oh, that sucks, but I have always been proud of my Indonesian stomach here. I can practically eat anything that might send ordinary Danes to toilet without feeling the slightest twitch in my stomach :D

Rob Baiton said...

Writer One...
Strangely enough there have been no obvious reports of food poisonings or mass hospitalizations. So, either the Indonesian way of cooking it in some way makes it ok to eat or the reliance on spices and cabe rawit does the trick in rendering it safe.

I am guessing if it goes into a rendang dish then perhaps it is so well cooked and flavoured that even the bacteria quit in protest.


Rob Baiton said...

It is stories that make you wonder though...the next time I am sitting in a Warteg or shopping at the local market this little factoid will undoubtedly be bouncing around inside my little noggin.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing that few tablets of Norit wouldn't cure LOL

I used to take those tablets after eating rujak cingur (I don't know if you are familiar with this food) or other street food when I was still living with my parents. I stopped altogether when I moved to Jakarta because I hardly cared about that and never really thought about it (If you start thinking about it, you'll get so freaked out that you don't dare to eat anything) and everything's fine.

Maybe tahu/tempe/telor would be a wiser option next time you eat at some Warteg :D

Rob Baiton said...

Writer One...

I always tell people that they make themselves sick because their mind is a powerful tool and they have convinced themselves that they will be sick and the prophecy self-fulfills.

I have never been really sick as a result of some kind of food poisoning, most people cannot work this out.

Most Indonesians also seem a little confused when the see me munching down the cabe rawit. My maid when she first joined us was a little confused when teh request ws made for "sambal mentah" which is simply ground up red and green chilies with some garlic cloves, small red onions, and some mustard seeds, with a touch of olive oil.

She thought it was for the missus. The missus kindly informed her that it was not something she would eat and that it was for me.

It is always a good conversation starter or ice breaker :D

Elyani said...

What amazes me is how creative those people are. They recycle mostly everything, from expired cakes/biscuits to rotten meats. I rarely buy bakso or nasi campur from the warteg. I'd prefer a home cooking meals even if they only consist of a simple stir fry veggies with tempe goreng. I'd never missed eating steaks, burgers or KFC either. I think the last time I went there was almost 2 years ago.

I hope the government will do something about this recycling things, but it is difficult to control knowing how lazy are those pegawai negeri. I am very concerned know that we have more people suffering cancer, tumors etc. Bad foods definitely a good trigger to your health.

BTW, I love fiery sambal too. Have you tried "Lily" brand Sambal Lampung where the red chilis seeds visible from its bottle. They are stronger than sambal mentah. If you like to try them, please let me know. I don't mind to send you a bottle or two.

Rob Baiton said...


Yep. My wife's family grew up in Kalianda (schooled in Pringsewu)...pretty familiar with Lampung :D

Elyani said...

Really Rob? I was born in Lampung too but spend more than half of my age in different cities (Yogya, Bandung, Jakarta and Bogor). I studied in Pringsewu too, it was in Xaverius Catholic school. Am sure your missus knows where it is :) Small world eh?

Rob Baiton said...


Yes, my wife knows where it is because she went there too :D

Small world indeed.

Silverlines said...

A while ago the TV aired some news about how some bakso sellers made their bakso from rat-meat.

I wonder if it has stopped, or if anyone did anything to stop the production. Many kind of meats seem to swamp the market these days.

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