Beware! Over 80% small food vans, roadside restaurants, stalls, take-away counters and sweet shops in urban Jharkhand are running without a mandatory food safety registration, state food safety officials said on Wednesday.
Reason: The Jharkhand Food Safety Directorate is still to recruit enough food inspectors to implement the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006. The state just has 24 food inspectors, one for each district of the state.
Officials said risk of consumption of sub-standard food, which causes food poisoning and serious stomach illnesses, increases during festivals with people eating outside on most days.
However, a senior directorate officials, requesting anonymity, said that to implement the FSSA at least 70 food inspectors were required.
FSSA makes it mandatory for a person or firm in the food trade to have a license or registration, which ensures food items being sold are safe and unadulterated. “More inspectors will be recruited but the need of the moment is an attitude change among people,” said director-inchief Jharkhand health services Praveen Chandra.
He said the biggest problem was small vendors with less than Rs 12 lakh turnover per annum. “I am surprised that despite the paltry registration fee they are not coming forward for the FSSA tag,” he said.
For businesses with less than Rs 12 lakh turnover, the registration fee is Rs 100, those with Rs 12 lakh to Rs 25 lakh turnover it was Rs 5,000 and for turnover above Rs 25 lakh it was Rs 7,500.
“Small vendors feel that coming under the FSSA will demand huge investments in ensuring safe and hygienic food. Majority of them cannot afford it. Hence they avoid the norms unlike bigger hotels and restaurant chains,”said a senior official of the Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FJCCI).
Officials said that if Ranchi was any indication, roughly 10% of 7000 odd businesses have applied under the FSSA, with coverage almost the same in Bokaro, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad.
“This fiscal we have received just 1759, which is tepid compared to huge number of eateries in the state,” said Chandra.
Since the FSSA was implemented in Jharkhand, around 3500 food business have registered for food safety, said officials.
Last year, officials slapped notices on more than a 100 food outlets for selling sub-standard and adulterated food during Durga Puja and Diwali as none had the FSSA license.