without adequate preparedness for timely crackdown, the entire food vending sector went off the scanner in the past few months.

With the government repealing the powers of civic bodies for initiating action against food adulteration and enforcing the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, without adequate preparedness for timely crackdown, the entire food vending sector went off the scanner in the past few months.

Lack of amenities

Lack of amenities to inspect hotels within a prescribed time is a major challenge being faced by food safety officials. Unethical trade practices are reportedly thriving during the interregnum.

With all its shortfalls, the health officials of civic bodies used to inspect the hotels and attempted to book eateries functioning in violation of health and hygiene norms.

Rs.500 fine

The inherent flaws of the Panchayati Raj and Municipality Act impeded the officials from taking stringent action against those dishing out adulterated food.

Official sources told The Hindu here that they were empowered to levy only a fine of Rs.500 from the eateries booked under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. Rules mandated to destroy the stale food seized from the joints there itself.

Still, the municipalities and corporations had a battery of officials and were sufficiently armed to conduct raids and periodic inspections.

The civic representatives too had enough space to intervene in the event of an exigency.

Once the authority was vested with the food safety officials and the civic bodies retracted from the process, there was a vacuum and it worked to the advantage of those who violated the rules, the sources said.

On enforcing the FSS Act, the powers for issuing licence and collecting licence fees from hoteliers had all been delegated to the food safety officials.

The State government should have taken adequate safeguards and provided amenities to the food safety officials to pre-empt the sale of musty food but no such steps had been taken so far, sources said.

A coordinated initiative of the LSGIs and food safety personnel was the sole option to plug the loopholes. Mobile food sample testing laboratories too should be commissioned for instant examination of the seized samples.

Isolated attempts were unlikely to bring in the desired results and the government would have to take the lead for collective action, they said.