Food Safety wing draws up norms for food vendors to ensure safety and hygiene

Street food is an inevitable part of urban living in all metros and cities, anywhere in the world.

The USP of these food-vending units is hot food, served quickly and hassle-free, which one can pick up while on the move.

However, safety, cleanliness and hygiene are aspects of this food business which often go sacrificed, partly because customers never insist on these and vendors themselves are not aware of any specific guidelines they have to follow to ensure food safety.

Mobile joints

The Food Safety wing is now in the process of setting this right, by drawing up a set of guidelines that street food vendors, especially mobile fast food joints, have to follow so that safety and hygiene aspects of the food business are not compromised.

“What we are attempting to do is a branding exercise - those mobile fast food joints which follow the essential food safety guidelines will have our (food safety wing’s) seal of approval. We propose that these mobile vans may sport a uniform colour and a neon display board, sporting the insignia of food safety wing’s approval. In short, this branding becomes the USP of the vendors, while at the same time promoting the concept of food safety among the public,” says Commissioner of Food Safety Biju Prabhakar.

Discussions held

He had already held a preliminary round of discussions with some mobile food business operators, to impress upon them the need to put food safety first and get their feedback on the branding exercise

The proposal will be submitted to city corporations/ municipalities, so that they can own up the programme and ensure its proper implementation, he added.

While there are a handful of these mobile fast food joints in the city, these are not yet ‘legalised’ and the city Corporation has not exactly given them permission or a licence to operate these mobile vending units.

The only stamp of officialdom that these vendors have at present is a food business operator (FBO) registration from the Food Safety wing.

Local bodies will have to step in and issue these vendors a licence or a permit, before the proposed scheme of the Food Safety wing can be implemented.

Though many of these mobile fast food joints do roaring business, often these function from unhygienic premises and from within shabby, rusty vehicles. Clean and safe storage of cooked food, raw food, serving vessels, safe handling of food, safe drinking water and proper waste disposal are all issues which need to be addressed as far as the street food business is concerned.

Grading

“We have drawn a 22-point guidelines draft for mobile fast food joints, including a set of basic guidelines which cannot be compromised. Depending on the rate of compliance, we will grade these joints and give our approval. We could even think about discussing with the KSEB on providing these joints power connections with meter at certain designated areas,” Mr. Prabhakar, said.

The attempt is to encourage all vendors to sell safe food rather than discourage them from selling food on the street, he added.

Guidelines proposed

*Mobile fast food joints may be operated only from clean premises, free of open drains.

*The inside of the vehicle, including the floor, used to sell/ cook food should be lined with seamless aluminium or fibreglass sheets that can be cleaned easily.

*Vehicle to be clean, washed daily.

*Food to be stored only in clean, un-dented stainless steel vessels with covers.

*Safe, potable water should be provided as drinking water and for washing hands.

*Food waste and waste water should be collected in vessels and disposed of properly elsewhere.

*Those handling food should necessarily wear clean clothes, head cap, apron and gloves.

*All food handlers should be given training in handling food and should compulsorily avoid smoking/ chewing tobacco during business hours.

*Health certificates must for all food handlers.

*Exhaust fans mandatory. Clean kitchen wipes/clothes to be used.

*Only food-grade plastic covers or aluminium foil for packing food.

*In case food being sold in the van is cooked elsewhere, the place of food preparation should have a registration certificate and fulfil conditions of food safety.

*Meat, egg and poultry should be bought from licensed suppliers and a register of the details of suppliers and the daily supplies should be maintained.

*Use of mini-refrigerator, microwave ovens will be encouraged for food safety.

*Cooked meat and uncooked/ ready-to-be-cooked meat should be clearly separated. These cannot be kept unrefrigerated for more than three hours.

*Temporary clean roofing material should be drawn up if food is cooked outside the van.

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