Chandni Chowk’s `chaat’, Kolkata’s rolls and Mumbai’s bhelpuri would soon get a dose of hygiene from the Government. A pilot project initiated by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries is currently probing practices followed by street food vendors in 10 cities in the country. The final aim of this pilot project is to initiate a new scheme for upgrading safety and quality quotients of street food across the country.
A report prepared by the Standing Committee of Agriculture has confirmed – what in fact was always common knowledge on the street – that street food in India does not usually have hygiene and safety as mandatory ingredients. For example: `85 per cent contamination was found in all street food in Kolkata and neighbouring areas,’ the report said.
It noted that the 'presence of E Coli and Salmonella (ready tools to trigger gastroenteritis) in food samples is high.'
Further, street vendors are also facing hot competition from new restaurants and in many places are struggling to satisfy customers who are aware of hygiene-related issues. The Government also sees local and exotic street food as a potential tourist attraction.
The new scheme would keep all these aspects in contention and formulate rules and regulation to monitor and manage the street food market in India.
Some of the main objectives of the scheme are identifying, organising and training vendors, sensitising them about clean practices, providing micro finance links to them, and selecting food streets based cost-benefit analysis.
'The initiative will also help to boost promotion of ethnic food and tourism. While the activities are aimed to be sustainable in the economic sense, this being the first of this type will also aim to assess the social-cost-benefit during the period of implementation of the project,' the report said.
The pilot study is currently on, besides Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, in Chennai, Bangalore, Guwahati, Agartala, Jaipur and Agra. Once the pilot project is over, the Central scheme 'Quality upgradation of Street Food and Food Street' would be launched in 50 cities.
The Ministry is roping in NGOs, industry associations, municipal bodies and the ministries of Health, Panchayati Raj, Poverty Alleviation and Tourism to take the scheme forward.