Tenders have been floated for selection of food safety auditing agencies to monitor the quality of free food being provided to devotees under the Annadhanam Scheme implemented in 764 temples in the State under the purview of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department. These agencies are being roped in for a period of three years.
“We want to ensure quality and hygiene of the food being served to the devotees. On an average around 80,000 persons are being served food in the afternoons. The department looks to rope in agencies that are recognised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India as Food Safety Auditing Agencies under the Food Safety and Standards (Food Safety Auditing) Regulations, 2018 through this tendering process,” explained J. Kumaragurubaran, Officer on Special Duty, HR&CE department.
According to HR&CE Minister P.K. Sekarbabu, this scheme has evolved over the years and has been expanded to cover a larger number of temples.
“Temples that witness large crowds and are in remote areas without proper access to food are chosen to be part of the scheme. We also provide Annaprasadam at 15 temples and day-long Annadhanam at several temples. Around 82,000 devotees a day consume the food as part of the Annadhanam scheme. Temples incur a cumulative expenditure of ₹103 crore per annum for the same,” he said.
According to the tender document, the agencies roped in for auditing the food quality have to verify if the temple adheres to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed by the Department for cooking and dining and conduct sensory evaluation of the cooked food for quality and taste.
They also have to check the cleanliness of the vessels used for cooking and serving; the cleanliness of the cooking and dining area; check personal cleanliness/hygiene of food handlers; and check the quality of incoming materials and ingredients used for cooking.
The audit should be conducted without prior intimation to the temples. The bidder should audit each temple at least twice a year. The time interval between two visits to a particular temple shall be a minimum of four months. At least 125 temples should be inspected in a month.