Your Space: Punekars want FDA to impose a fine on offenders
For the last few months, there have been violations of quality and hygiene standards during food delivery. The Food and Drug Administration has made it compulsory for online food aggregators to maintain the health record of each food delivery person, to avoid spread of infectious diseases. While recruiting delivery staff, the aggregators should counsel and train them. The delivery person should wear clean clothes and maintain a proper haircut. Nails should also be trimmed on a regular basis. The FDA should impose a penalty of at least Rs 1 lakh for violation of any law related to food safety and hygiene.
Issue medical certificates
In the last three months, several cases have caught the eye of social media, wherein violations of food safety have occurred during delivery by food aggregators. In December 2018, Zomato was mired in controversy after a two-minute video from Madurai went viral, in which one of its delivery staff was captured sneaking food out of the bag, skimming off bites from packages, resealing them and then heading off to hand them over to customers. In February 2019, a Chennai resident found a blood-stained adhesive bandage in a box of noodles ordered via Swiggy after he had consumed half his meal. While these shockers propelled the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take strict steps, it has to be routinely accomplished with a registered medical practitioner, who must then issue a certificate as to whether an employee is healthy for the job. The effort by the FDA is good, however, it should not only be on paper, but should be implemented effectively.
Supervise food delivery employees
Food and Drug Administration, Pune, has taken a step in the right direction by asking online food delivery platforms to maintain a health record of their food delivery employees. There have been a lot of complaints by customers regarding the quality and hygiene of food served by small eateries. The entire online food delivery system needs to be monitored and requires guidelines. The eateries that collaborate with online food aggregators like Swiggy, Zomato, Uber Eats and Foodpanda must ensure that their food package must reach the customers without the delivery staff hampering the package. The FDA should supervise these online food aggregators from time to time. They must visit the food outlets and inspect the food delivery employee. It is not an easy task, but it is not impossible.
Maya Hemant Bhatkar
Permit only selective restaurants to deliver food
The Food and Drug Administration should ensure that the employees of the online food aggregators check the delivery box in which the food is packed. Since the delivery time is important, the vehicle of the delivery staff must be in proper condition to avoid accidents. The delivery staff should be instructed to follow traffic rules. FDA should ensure that the food is packed in boxes that cannot be tampered. The office should ensure that restaurants that hold grade 1 or grade 2 certification should be allowed to deliver food.
Difficult to maintain records due to staff crunch
The Food and Drug Administration department has been facing staff crunch, so it will be very difficult for them to implement the rules related to food quality and delivery staff hygiene from April 1. It has been a week since the FDA asked online aggregators to maintain health records of its employees. However, the office has not taken any serious action against these violations. They do not have enough staff to implement the rule strictly. However, this does not mean that the health records are not necessary. If the FDA is facing a staff crunch, they could hire a third party who could do the job for them. The FDA should not issue a licence to online food aggregators without checking the health records of its staff, especially delivery persons.
Continue conducting surprise raids at food joints
The Food and Drug Administration department of Pune has been carrying out regular raids at food joints for the past six months. They covered restaurants like Baghban and eateries like JJ Garden wada pav, Akhtar caterers and even Maganlal chikki. It turns out, the ‘too good to be true’ offers on food delivery apps like Zomato and Swiggy are a sham as many of the eateries listed on these platforms do not have proper licence or health records. While the FDA has asked online food aggregators to maintain the health records of its employees, it should continue conducting surprise raids at eateries in order to implement the rule.
Target restaurants and not delivery partners
Why is the Food and Drug Administration targeting online food delivery partners like Swiggy, Zomato, Uber Eats and Foodpanda? The online food aggregators just have a delivery mechanism. The restaurants are responsible for preparing the food and packaging it. If the food is spoilt, it is the fault of the restaurant and not the delivery partner. The restaurant is responsible for the hygiene and quality of food. Hence, the FDA officials should target the restaurants first and ensure that they maintain hygiene in their kitchens and health records of their staff. Once this is done, the FDA can ask online food aggregators to maintain hygiene.
Issue licence to delivery partner employees
We should all appreciate this move by the Food and Drug Administration. However, in order to implement the rule, the FDA should issue proper licence to the employees of online food aggregators. Only those who have licence can deliver food. The licence should be given only after doing a complete health check-up, and verifying documents like driving licence and Aadhaar card. The FDA should also renew their licences. They should also conduct raids and audit restaurants every three months.
Provide assurance stamps
It is often noticed that eateries do not comply with the basic standards as listed by the food regulatory authorities. Recent raids in Pune-based establishments revealed that they were operating in extremely unhygienic conditions. The food they prepared could pose health hazards to consumers who placed their orders with them, many lured by the extremely cheap deals. The FDA should ask the employees of the online food aggregators to get a stamp on the parcel which is to be delivered. The stamp should be given only after the quality of the food and hygiene is verified. As consumers, we must ask for a quality assurance stamp. If there is no stamp then the consumer can cancel or reject the order.
Issue stop-work notices
Those who are in the food business must understand the importance of quality and hygienic food. This does not pertain only to get a certificate from the FDA, but it is also a matter of life and death to those who consume that food. Officials fear that people directly handling food could in particular contribute to the spread of diarrhoeal diseases and viral gastroenteritis, besides some other bacterial and viral infections. So, it the restaurateur’s responsibility to maintain hygiene standards at his or her food outlet. If the restaurant does not comply to the rules, the FDA should issue stop-work notices to them.