Authorities might levy fines once February 4 deadline expires; operators fear move will ruin trade

Most of the food-business operators in Chennai District have defied the direction of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to obtain licence before February 4.

With just one working day left, more than 15,500 of the 22,000 food business operators are yet to obtain licence or complete registration. The Food Safety and Drug Administration Department is likely to commence collection of fine of Rs.100 per day from such unlicensed traders.

Over the past few months, food safety officers have only been taking ‘surveillance samples’ from operators and educating them. After February 4, the officials may take ‘legal samples’ from shops and file cases, said S. Lakshmi Narayanan, designated officer, Food Safety and Drug Administration, Chennai District.

However, this move is expected to invite the wrath of thousands of such traders.

The Chennai Corporation in association with the Food Safety and Drug Administration Department had taken various measures to speed up the process of registration and licence in the past few months. The Corporation issues trade licences for food-business operators while their registration or food licence is given by the food safety department.

All food-business operators, including star hotels with annual turnover of Rs.12 lakh, were asked to get a licence from the food safety department by August 4, 2012. However, most of the food-business operators failed to obtain licence before the previous deadline. Similarly, most of the small food-business operators with turnover of less than Rs.12 lakh did not get registration certificates before August 4, 2012. The deadline was extended to February 4, 2013.

T. Vellaiyan of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peravai said the move would ruin thousands of traders. “After permitting FDI in retail, the government is planning to ruin indigenous business units by stringent penalty on traders. This will help big multi-national companies. This is not good for the nation,” said Mr. Vellaiyan.

“Even temple prasadam is covered under the Act. It has a huge penalty clause. Traders will run away from business if they are penalised. We have requested the government to suspend the implementation of the Act till amendments are made and standards are finalised. But we do not advise our association members to not to take licence. The Act will become more people friendly if the penalty clause is revised,” said R. Srinivasan, Secretary of Tamil Nadu Hotels Association.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India was established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 for laying down science-based standards for food products and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

The Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 came into force on August 5, 2011. Licenses issued to traders under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954 have already expired.

Food safety officers, whose responsibility it is to inspect outlets and look into complaints, have been focussing more on information, education and communication in the past few months.

The punishment for a food business operator will be decided based on the extent of risk, an official said.

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