By Nane Atshemian
Mayor's Office workers and sanitary inspection officials are calling on residents of Yerevan to abstain from buying food and drinks in the streets, saying that they have no other powers to combat the phenomenon.
A study conducted last year by the Hygienic-Epidemic Inspection shows that foods sold in the street of Yerevan contain numerous prohibited microorganisms and substances.
The inspectors' request to the Mayor's Office to stop the activities of stalls selling food and drinks in the street was left unaddressed as neither body is authorized to remove food sellers, most of whom operate illegally, from the streets.
By law, police are empowered to combat illegal trade activities in the city, but there is a growing concern over some police officials taking bribes and protecting offenders instead of punishing them.
"I can't say whether it is police who take bribes or others, but this
question should be addressed to these bribe-takers who protect these sellers," Deputy Mayor of Yerevan Arman Sahakyan told RFE/RL.
The corresponding department at the Health Ministry has no powers to fight street trade properly either. It can only inspect the situation and warn prefectures or the Mayor's Office.
"But we can conduct checks only in facilities operating legally,"
Health Department Head Armen Soghoyan told RFE/RL.
He added that since they lack practically any administrative levers to preclude mass poisoning, it only remains for them to urge residents not to buy food and drinks in the streets.
According to him, a number of patients were hospitalized last year with intestinal infections caused by food, especially dairy and meat
products, bought in the street.
"Thank God, no such cases have yet been registered this year. But if we fail to undertake steps now citizens will soon start having health problems," Soghoyan concluded.