In wake of the festival season, officials of the district health office (DHO) may have upped the frequency of food inspections across the city but food outlets at the bus stand and railway station seem to have escaped their scrutiny and inspection itinerary as well
Passengers at the railway station and bus stand complain that vendors at both places frequently sell unhygienic and stale food items with impunity in the absence of checks.
The food items are rarely covered and swarms of flies and other insects can be seen hovering over these, rendering the food unfit for consumption. The sight of rats scurrying across the station is also not uncommon.
Passengers say that when they complain to the vendors about the unhygienic food, rather than replacing it, they end up arguing with them.
“I have to travel to Jalandhar every day for work and frequently use the bus and train service. I have seen rats in most food outlets. Obviously, their presence renders the food not only unfit for consumption but even poisonous. Same goes with the stale food that they openly sell and no one seems to have ever questioned them,” said Kulbir Singh, a local.
A worker at one of the outlets at bus stand told HT, on the condition of anonymity, that quite often when water is not available in taps for making tea, water is sourced from the taps in the toilet. The oil used for frying is hardly replaced with fresh oil to prepare fried food items, he added.
When Renu Chattwal, the civil surgeon under whom DHO falls, was contacted and apprised about this concern and views of passengers who feel there seems to be no check on these food outlets by concerned officials, she first agreed that no inspections have been conducted in the recent past. “We have just one district health official and this city is so big to cover every part. So, how do you expect this official to carry out inspections everywhere? However, as you have now brought to my notice, the unhygienic state of these food outlets, I will ask my team to conduct inspections there and take immediate action.”
Andesh Kaur Kang, district health officer when contacted, said she is on leave and food safety officer Manoj Khosla could not be contacted.
According to Dr Anureet Kaur Gill from SPS Hospital, the state of hygiene and food quality being served at these food outlets is dismal and the health officials must wake up to this, as soon as possible.
“First of all, food should not be kept uncovered as dust settles on it and even flies and mosquitoes make the food highly unhygienic. Secondly, stale food can cause several food infections including food poisoning. Thirdly and most shockingly, the presence of rats in these food outlets should be considered a matter of immediate concern. One should not forget that rats in addition to eating these food items may be excreting their waste over it. And, if same food item is consumed by someone it will lead to a gamut of stomach infections,” said Gill.