This festive season, as you go pandal-hopping, watch what you eat from the streets.
More than 70% small and big restaurants, stalls and on-wheel counters and retail stores involved in the food business do not have the mandatory food safety licence from the Jharkhand government to operate, according to food safety officials’ estimates.
Reason: The Jharkhand food safety directorate doesn’t have adequate food inspectors to implement the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006.
The FSSA makes it mandatory for a person or firm in the food trade to have a FSSA licence, which ensures that food items being sold are safe and unadulterated.
Currently the state has seven food inspectors for 24-districts and its additional 188 medical officers who doubled up as food safety officers have hardly been able to execute their additional duties.
“The state must make recruitments. The medical officer plan has hardly worked, as they are already overburdened with daily hospital and health centre work. They hardly sent food samples, conduct raids or serve notices to unlicenced or illegal food businesses,” said a senior food safety official, on anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media.
Food safety officials said that in Ranchi alone just 10% of roughly around 6,000 businesses have the licence and coverage was almost same in Jamshedpur and Dhanbad- Bokaro.
“We have already started the process if recruiting 24 food inspectors,” said director-in-chief Jharkhand food safety, Dr Praveen Chandra
“The registrations are tepid, this year till June we have just received 514 applications, most of them being from the Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad.”
According to food safety directorate, since the FSSA was implemented in Jharkhand in 2013, just over 3,500 businesses have applied for registration and licence.
Chandra added that the department was surprised why food businesses were ignoring the FSSA despite the paltry registration fee and it had decided to increase awareness drives.
For businesses with less than `12 lakh turnover, the registration fee is `100, those with `12 lakh to `25 lakh turnover it was `5,000 and for turnover above `25 lakh it was `7,500.
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 licence.
Officials said that risk of consumption of sub-standard food, which causes food poisoning and serious stomach illnesses, increase during festivals with people eating outside on most days.
Chandra added that to cap sale of adulterated food in the state during the festive season the state had asked district officials to increase and start raid on food outlets.
Nimai Chaudhary, owner of a fast food stall at Firayalal Chowk said, “We don’t have any information on licence or how to get it. The department must inform us.”