With Diwali around the corner, inspection of food outlets by the District Health Office (DHO) may have picked up pace but their own officials seem to have forgotten the basic norms of hygiene while carrying out these inspections.
This is clearly evident from the inspection photographs along with communiqués daily sent by the DHO to the media. In these pictures none of the officials is seen wearing either caps or gloves while inspecting food and eatables in the kitchens of sweetmeat shops and several other food outlets. In some pictures, they can also be been seen smelling or holding food items with their uncovered hands.
When HT interacted with some employees and owners of these eateries, they shared that when the health officials turn up for inspection they keep stressing on the importance of using caps, aprons and gloves and several other directions regarding hygiene but when it comes to them, they fail to practice what they preach.
“The officials themselves maintain no hygiene standards during inspections. If they were genuinely concerned, they would never come for inspection without caps and gloves. In many cases, before entering the kitchen, they don’t care to wash their hands and with same hands pick up different food items and then put them back,”lamented one of the sweet shop owners requesting anonymity. Ironically, in different communiqués of DHO as well, officials do not forget to mention that other than conducting inspections, they have directed employees working in the kitchens to maintain utmost hygiene by wearing caps to prevent hair falling in the food and by using aprons and hand gloves to avoid food contamination.
EXPERTS QUESTION AUTHENTICITY OF INSPECTIONS
With reports and pictures of these inspections being carried by many newspapers since the last few weeks, food experts and doctors have questioned the unhygienic manner in which these food inspections are conducted by the health officials concerned.
“I have been taking note of the food inspection pictures being published in newspapers but it is shocking to note that health officials have turned a blind eye to all basic principles of hygiene. They seem to be unaware of the fact that when head is uncovered, hair strands can fall into the food and without gloves, different kind of infections and viruses can spread within minutes. In this way, we are ensuring contamination of food. Also, food that is picked and smelled once has to be discarded right away,”said Anureet Kaur Gill, doctor, SPS Hospital.
Similarly, Anita Kochar, department head of food and nutrition at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), said, “It is not that caps and hand gloves are meant just for chefs in the kitchen but for officials who conduct food inspection. Even first year students of food and nutrition would know this, but it is unfortunate that health officials in the city have ignored the basic hygiene.” Third year hotel management student from Punjab College of Technical Education (PCTE) who did not to reveal his identity commented that health officials seem to have skipped the chapter on basic hygiene during their education.