As the central government has extended the date to obtain licence to sell small food items, milk and fruits till February 5, the department of health safety is now to educate rural small food business operators (FBOs) and farmers in the wake of growing confusion about registration and the Food Safety Act.
The government's order making licence mandatory for selling milk, fruits and vegetables, even for door-to-door sale on daily basis, has created panic among the rural population engaged in selling of milk and vegetables. Farmers are skeptical about obtaining licence and also apprehensive about the testing procedure of their products.
So far, around 70,000 of small food business operators have registered themselves across himachal Pradesh while the directorate of health safety has estimated nearly 1.10 lakh small FBOs in the state. Now, the directorate is considering to launch an awareness campaign, especially in rural areas, so that more people involved in food business, including sale of milk and vegetables, could be mobilised for getting themselves registered under the central act of food safety.
Director health safety Rameshwar Sharma said that earlier the last date to obtain the licence was August 4 and just over 68,000 small FBOs have been registered. “We have an estimated number of 1.10 lakh FBOs. Those who have not applied for licence can apply till February 5 next,” said Sharma.
He said the department would also make people aware about this act and the government would remove all apprehensions of the traders in rural areas in particular.
As per section 31 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, no person could get involved into any food business without a licence issued by the state authority.
Sharma said that the government has designated some medical officers as the licence issuing authority and applicants could apply to them.
Sher Singh, a resident of Mashobra who sells milk in Sanjauli area of Shimla town, said he has heard about the new rule of obtaining licence. “I will apply for a licence soon, but I don't know how they will check the quality of our product,” he said. “I have heard that one licence will be issued to one person but every member of my family is involved in the business,” he added.
Himachal Pradesh Kisan Sabha has also question the registration process in this regard. Kisan Sabha president Kuldeep Singh Tanwar said that it is not easy to maintain the same quality of milk throughout the year for every farmer. “Different types of animals, feed and atmosphere will change the quality of milk,” he said.
If any small business operator is found selling his products without licence, he could be jailed for six months and fined `5 lakh. The business operator will have to submit his yearly record of turnover, besides a medical certificate and personal photograph with the authorities.