Thursday, December 12, 2013


Street vendors are part and parcel of the eating culture in many countries including India. Though alarming reports appear from time to time regarding the unsafe quality of preparations offered at these outlets, people still flock around them unable to resist the mouth watering products offered by these unorganized sector food service players. From time to time efforts are made to evict them from the already congested thoroughfares where they frequent in the evenings but the movement refuses to die down because of its sheer popularity. Then came the efforts to regulate them through licensing and reformation vis-a-vis improved products. To some extent these efforts are succeeding and many roadside eateries are showing significant improvements by way of using S S utensils,covering of the preparations to shield from pollution, using of bottled water for making the food and drinking purpose and improved personal hygiene. But what is being done is grossly inadequate and such reformist efforts need to be augmented several fold. Seminars and conferences do not help in inculcating good habits among these semi-literate entrepreneurs. More hands on training on a continuous basis will be required in each civic areas to bring about real long term transformation. FSSAI must understand this basic truth when it spends huge money for conducting academic exercises like seminars. as detailed below.  

"A lot of street food guys are not very scrupulous," said Tejinder Singh, 48, who serves up spicy black lentils known as daal makhani from a stand in New Delhi. "We are not sons of gods. We have a lot to learn." Singh was among about 500 vendors who took part in an October training seminar in New Delhi on the basics of food safety and hygiene, an attempt to curtail the infamous "Delhi belly" that has struck down many an adventurous snacker in India. Launched by India's Food Safety and Standards Authority and the National Association of Street Vendors of India, the seminar offered a primer on safe drinking water and disposable gloves, along with a list of food-handling do's and don'ts. Number one on the forbidden list? Don't pick your nose. Also banned are cleaning one's ears, smoking while handling food and spitting into the wash basin or sink. The goal of the program is to create "safe zones" in popular areas, but is it really possible to sanitize street food in India, where suspending any fastidious concern for hygiene has always been part of the deal? Many Indians already have ways of finding the freshest and most succulent chaat, the small plates of savory snacks sold on the streets".
It is fashionable to talk about the strong bellies Indians are supposed to have to resist the infection caused by food borne pathogens but this cannot be an excuse to neglect this sector by the civic authorities. Though it may be difficult to make any drastic changes in the existing scenario concerning street vendors and their functioning, efforts must be made to create safe and appropriate infrastructure for relocating them at several centers within cities in a cluster format. Such clusters can have common water supply, toilet facilities, covered roofs and waste disposal. Already in some states food courts are functioning on highways which give great pleasure to the traveling public to stop by and enjoy clean and safe foods.  


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