Newly-formed food safety department hopes to complete process this month

The food you eat, the meat you purchase or the milk products you buy will all now be monitored by the Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration Department that will ensure that they are hygienic for consumption.

Ever since the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 came into force in August last year, the department has been issuing licenses to food-business operators. Around 450 licences have been issued to various food business organisations in the city from the 750 applications it has received so far. The city has around 12,000 food-business operators. Licenses issued to traders under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954 expired in March this year, and the businesses need to acquire fresh licenses under the new act.

“We are not rejecting any applications. We are issuing licences to all the applicants. Following this, we will give improvement notices to those who need to make necessary changes,” said Krishna Raj, designated officer of the department in Chennai. “We hope to issue all the licences by the end of April.”

The city at present has 25 food safety officers, who will regularly inspect the outlets and look into complaints. “The food safety officers exclusively ensure the hygiene of food alone,” says Mr. Krishna Raj.

With the new department in place since August last year, hotels say they find the system convenient. “We have applied for licences for all our outlets and hope to get them within 15 days,” says Masilla Esther, senior executive, corporate affairs, Domino's Pizza, Chennai.

“We plan to organise a health camp in specific locations for the employees of our outlets. This way, it will be convenient for them to get fitness certificates.”

While many food business organisations, particularly the packaging industry, have expressed concerns about the tough penalties imposed on violators of the Act, Mr. Krishna Raj says that an improvement notice will be first issued for the business house to work on its deficiencies. “The fine or punishment for the offender will be decided based on the extent of risk involved. For instance, if more people are affected or if the extent of danger is higher, the punishment will be graver,” he said. Roadside eateries and petty shops will also come under the Act. According to officials, the vendors will be educated on following certain norms to improve and maintain hygiene.

We will tell them that they should be aware of the source of the ingredients such as tea dust, which will help us trace out contamination in case of complaints,” he added.

Aggrieved consumers can complain to the designated officer at 94435 47147.

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