Did you get an upset tummy after eating from a local restaurant? Then you may be eligible to get up to Rs 5 lakh in compensation under the Food Safety Act.
Not so easily, though.
First, you have to preserve some of the food that you ate and get it tested at the city’s food safety lab at the earliest.
Second, you have to preserve the sample of your vomit or stool and get a physician to certify you have had food poisoning.
If you furnish all the proof, the manufacturer or vendor will, after a prolonged court battle, pay you Rs1 lakh in case of any harm, Rs 3 lakh for grievous harm and Rs 5 lakh for death, according to section 65 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
“For claiming compensation, the person has to get the same food that he ate, tested. And, the sample has to be tested within 24 hours, otherwise, the manufacturers may contest that the food went bad because the consumer did not keep it under proper refrigeration,” an official from Delhi’s food safety department said.
“When it comes to compensation, it is a very strict Act and a person will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt in the court of law that he/ she got sick because of the food. This means we have to medically examine whether the food poisoning happened due to the same strain of bacteria or virus found in the food,” the official added.
The official agrees that the conditions for compensation are impractical.
“The onus lies with the consumer to collect the proof. Nobody saves half their sandwich or a little bit of the dal, just in case they fall ill later. And, what if the person gets sick after four days? Then, even if they complain and we find the food to be contaminated, we can only take action against the manufacturer or vendor. They will not receive any compensation as they will be unable to prove the food they had four days ago was contaminated,” the official said.
It may take a couple of hours to two days for an infection to set in. “If the toxin is already present in the food product because of the action of a bacteria, a person will get sick in two or three hours. But, if the person ingests the infection, it will take a little longer. The most common bacteria -- staphylococcus takes 6 hours, bacillus cereus takes 12 to 24 hours and salmonella takes 36 to 48 hours to start acting,” said Dr Srikant Sharma, senior consulting physician at Moolchand hospital.
To date, no case for compensation has been filed under the Act, which came into force five years ago, in 2011. “This clause is beneficial in case of mass outbreaks, where several people fall ill and we can register a stronger case. However, even then the evidence will mostly be circumstantial,” the food safety department official said.