Saturday, May 29, 2010


It is surprising that even in countries with very high level of literacy and IT enabled accessibility to information there exists a need to educate the population on vital areas like food hygiene and safety. With the preoccupation with day to day chores in a fast paced life style, people seem to have less inclination and time to absorb the basics of food safety so that they can save themselves from the dangers of food related poisoning and other health risks. The US Department of Agriculture which is primarily concerned about fresh produce and animal food products safety in that country is pioneering a new initiative that will take the information to the door steps of the consumers, stressing the importance of adopting practices that can preempt food related afflictions.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today launched the USDA Food Safety Discovery Zone, a 40-foot long interactive, hands-on food safety learning experience bringing food safety information to towns and cities throughout the nation. This exciting new educational center on wheels is designed to improve public food safety awareness and behavior. The goal is to prevent foodborne illness by emphasizing the USDA's Be Food Safe messages: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill".

Unfortunately in a country like India, no one seems to be so much concerned about food safety though organized industry, being accountable, does adopt sound technological practices to deliver their products in reasonably safe condition. As has been realized world over no matter how efficient government agencies are in exercising vigilance in food front, the ultimate responsibility rests with the consumer to take the right decision in buying right foods. Government has a role in educating and equipping the consumer with the wherewithal to do this task. Probably GOI may wash off its hands under the pretext that food is a state subject putting the onus on the state administrative set ups. If so, why should there be central ministries on agriculture, food, consumer affairs, food processing etc doing practically nothing in the area of consumer education? During nineteen sixties and seventies, Food and Nutrition Board of GOI had community canning centers in many states "teaching" house wives the art and skill of packing seasonal fruits and vegetables and no one hears about such activities nowadays. Besides reviving such mobile awareness programs, there must also be a collective effort to incorporate effective food and hygiene information capsules in school curricula at a fairly early stage so that future citizens grow up fully aware of the need to exercise caution while scouting for safe foods.

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