Food Safety Officers cracking down on food business operators

On March 9, a team of food safety officials conducted a surprise inspection at a popular departmental store near Viswanathapuram on Old Natham Road.

A routine exercise turned out to be a major catch for the Food Safety Officers who were startled by the gross violations.

While the customers were picking items off the shelf, the inspection team was busy pulling out products which were past their expiry date.

The enforcement wing of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 is cracking down on food business operators who are taking customers for a ride by selling sub-standard or misbranded food products. This particular raid brought to light how children’s favourite snack items were being sold weeks beyond the expiry date.

The ‘karachevu’ packets priced at Rs.45 each for which the use by date was February 28, were still there on the racks on March 9. Some items such as butter biscuits had no packaged date at all. Colourful biscuit packets showing an expiry date of January 22 on the labels, flour packets with no address and snacks which should have been removed from the racks after their expiry date were seized by the Food Safety Officers. The store owner was let off with a warning.

“Our objective is not to penalise vendors and shopkeepers. The Act is for public health. Unsafe food products should not be sold and consumers should not be cheated,” says J.Suguna, Designated Officer for Food Safety, Madurai district. The Act empowers the enforcement authorities to look into manufacturing, processing, packaging, storage, transportation and sale of food or food ingredients. Given the apprehensions among traders and vendors, the officials are conducting awareness programmes in urban and rural areas. Simultaneously, they are also conducting surprise checks to catch those involved in adulteration.All Food Business Operators come under the purview of the Act. Government-run Fair Price Shops, civil supplies godowns, TASMAC bars, HR&CE temples’ annadhanam scheme, restaurants/hotels, Adi Dravida and Tribal hostels, college hostels, noon meal centres, departmental stores, retail shops, road side eateries, canteens and dhabas come under the scanner.

L.K.Muralidharan, Food Safety Officer (Madurai East), says that license or registration certificate is a must to run any type of food business depending on the annual turnover.