Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Karnataka seems to be over obsessed with the IT industry, relegating every thing else to the background. Otherwise why is that the required enabling infrastructure for implementation of the brand new food safety act of the Central Government is yet to be put in place?. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) with a heavy bureaucratic, top heavy organization at Delhi seems to be sitting back happily after taking 5 years to enact the Act but no one at the state level has any idea as to how to go about fulfilling their obligations. While the old PFA is legally not valid any more to book food fraudsters, new dispensation is yet to take shape! In the mean time adulterators and peddlers of unsafe foods are having a field day. Look at the situation in Bangalore, proudly called Silicon Valley of India, as reported by the media recently.

The city is a veritable gastronome's paradise, serving up cuisines for every palate and pocket. At every corner, one can get a whiff of a favourite dish being cooked. The large clientele of these fast food joints, however, can never be sure if the food served is safe and prepared hygienically. And that is certainly a cause for worry. According to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike's (BBMP) modest estimate, there are around 25,000 food outlets, excluding pushcarts, tea stalls, roadside eateries and a small percentage of darshinis. However, this is just in the core area (old Bangalore Mahanagara Palike). With the city limits extending to around 800 sq. km, BBMP sources say there could be over one lakh food outlets. The BBMP's food inspectors are supposed to collect samples from the eateries and provision stores regularly and test them to ensure that they are safe and fit for human consumption. So, how often is the food from these outlets checked? Almost never, say BBMP sources. Why? Because there are only six food inspectors in the BBMP, with one invariably on VVIP duty.

Is it not a shame that the Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Service has not been able to issue the necessary guidelines on the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act so far? Such an inertia seems to be preventing the body from taking any action against retail outlets in the state selling unsafe, sub-standard and date-expired products. Recently, a leading shopping mall in the city was found to sell products, which were well past the expiry date. Prior to the Act, the food inspectors in Bangalore came under the purview of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the city's municipal corporation. Already GOI took more than 5 years to pass the FSSA Bill after taking it up in the year 2006. Besides even if the rules are framed and the state begins to implement the Act, the lack of food inspectors will continue to hamper its efficient execution. Currently, there are 6 food inspectors on deputation from the health department as BBMP has only 27 inspectors for food safety. Even by its own estimate the BBMP wants 40 inspectors from the state government to oversee its 100 wards but how is it possible to cover the entire sprawling city with such meager personnel resources is not clear. One gets the unavoidable impression that neither the state government nor the BBMP is serious about tackling the menace of food adulteration and it should not come as a surprise if Bangalore's "Silicon Valley" tag is replaced by "Capital of Unsafe Foods" within a short period of time!


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