320 herbal water manufacturing units had been ordered to be closed

The Food Safety and Standards Act was essentially aimed at protecting the interests of consumers and not intended to harass traders engaged in food business, said B. Vasakumar, Additional Food Safety Commissioner, Tamil Nadu, here on Saturday.

The Act is applicable not only to private traders but also to all government agencies, including ration shops and anganwadi centres. Of the five lakh food business operators in the State, about 2.22 lakh operators have been registered and another 33,000 issued licences under the Act accounting for 52 per cent coverage, he said.

Food business operators with a turnover of up to Rs. 12 lakh a year are required to register under the Act and those with more than Rs. 12 lakh turnover should obtain licence. The registration could be done online.

Speaking at a seminar on Food Safety and Standards organised by the Consumer Protection Council, Tamil Nadu, in association with the Department of Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection and Tamil Nadu State Society for Consumer Protection and Empowerment here, Mr. Vasakumar said the Department of Food Safety and Drug Administration has established six food labs across the State to conduct checks of food samples collected from traders.

About 950 packaged drinking water units have been inspected and the report has been submitted to the government. Around 320 herbal water manufacturing units had been ordered to be closed and asked to obtain permission from the Union government.

The department was organising various awareness initiatives to persuade the food business operators to register and obtain licences under the Act before the deadline of August 4. A training programme for cooks of hotels and tea shops was under way in Tiruchi and Chennai. Six batches of cooks would undergo the training on food safety and hygiene.

Collector Jayashree Muralidharan said about 16,000 food business operators were required to register in Tiruchi district and so far 7,000 have done so. Of the 3,500 operators who require licences, 1,500 had obtained the same.

As consumers were becoming increasingly dependent on packaged food products, the implementation of the Act assumed importance to protect the interests of the poor, she said.

S. Pushpavanam, Secretary, Consumer Protection Council, Tamil Nadu, emphasised on creating awareness about the Act and its provisions as even members of consumer organisations did not know much about it. The Act has an essential role in ensuring hygiene and safety and in preventing adulteration of food products, he said.