Being a multiracial country, we have variety of food from local to international cuisine. In short, we are not short of choice. Every new development invariably will be filled with hawker centres and food outlets. Recently, I went to Kota Damansara at night for supper and shocked to find that every street is filled with restaurants and hawker centres. You are spoiled for choice.
Eating out is now a favourite pastime and to many people, a daily routine. Recently, the local newspaper reported that 40 percent of the people eat out daily. Interestingly, price is of prime concern. The food hygiene is not placed on the top priority. This survey is not surprising since it is common to find some well-known food outlet where the level of hygiene within the premise can be quite appalling. There are even well known hawker centres where toilet paper is used as tissue paper and if you go to the toilet, you will lose your appetite, probably for days. Because we are not concern with hygiene, a lot of food operators pay scant attention to hygiene and cleanliness.
We have such preoccupation with food that it is not uncommon for Malaysians while having lunch to talk about dinner, where to eat, what to eat and who to invite. We are not fussy about whether we are eating the right food. When it suits our taste and it is within our budget, we just eat it. To most Malaysians, healthy and unhealthy food is alien to them. As far as the taste is great, it is good. In this respect, the ladies seem to show a better understanding of the type of food to be eaten. There is a famous saying “you are what you eat”, but Malaysians don’t really care very much as long as it is delicious. Hence, it is not surprising that overweight and obesity register double digit growth every year among Malaysians. Most Malaysians are also not aware that obesity is the mother of all illness.
Because of our preoccupation with food, there is a mushrooming of food outlet. It cannot be denied that competition is keen. After all, the economic pie will be getting smaller. However, there seems to be an understanding among food operators that they should not undercut each other in food prices. Hence, there may be competition, but not a price war. In fact, over the years, food prices have slowly but steadily gone up.