Associations take exception to certain provisions

The Chennai Corporation will no longer issue food licences due to the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) replacing the erstwhile Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFAA). It has directed hotels, restaurants and retailers in the city to approach the office of the Commissioner of Food Safety for issue of food licences henceforth. The FSSA designates the Commissioner of Food Safety as the licensing authority.

Hotels, bakeries, tea-shops, sweet and savouries stalls, departmental stores, vegetable and fruit vendors, everybody selling food items would be coming under the purview of the new Act, say those in various trade associations.

Associations including the Chennai Hotels Owners Association and Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangakalin Peramaipu have raised objections to provisions relating to fine and penalty clauses, the amount of licence fee fixed under the Act and the standards of various products.

K.T. Srinivasa Raja, president, Chennai Hotels Owners Association, said the uniform licence fee would affect small hotels. “We don't know why the government is treating this as revenue instead of as nominal fee. We have already sent a letter to the Central government in this regard and hope we would hear something positive from them,” he said.

Mr. Raja explained that standards including lighting, drainage, consumer safety, food handling, upkeep of kitchens, ingredients used, source of raw materials, shelf life of food products were prescribed by the new Act. It prescribed penalty up to Rs.10 lakh and 6 months' imprisonment, which was being objected to by the trading community, he said.

“There are just too many things and it will take time for those in the industry to understand. We are holding discussions with association members in this regard,” he added. The city has around 10,000 small and big restaurants and eateries and around 3,000 bakeries.

K. Mohan, State general secretary, Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalin Peramaipu, said that in Chennai alone there were 1.25 lakh traders, wholesales, retailers and petty shops.

“The new Act has standards for items including the common coriander, chutney, sambar, idli. It also states that food items should not be sold unpackaged, which means road-side sundal sellers and idli shops would be affected.”

Those having an annual turnover of less than Rs.12 lakh are also to register with the Commissioner. Though standards have been fixed under the Act, there are very few laboratories in the State to check these, he added.

Keywords: food licences

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