Food safety officials grapple with lack of facilities, staff shortage

Organisations representing health inspectors in Kerala have urged the government to rope them in the enforcement drive

Updated - January 13, 2023 10:36 am IST

Published - January 12, 2023 07:58 pm IST - KOZHIKODE

Representational image of food safety officials inspecting a roadside eatery

Representational image of food safety officials inspecting a roadside eatery | Photo Credit: Special Arangement

Limitations in enforcement of food safety rules have come to light in the wake of frequent reporting of food-borne diseases across the State.

Food safety officials say they often grapple with lack of facilities and staff shortage. Each district has an Assistant Commissioner of Food Safety, under whom there is one circle-level food safety officer for each Assembly constituency. There is a problem with this because Assembly constituencies are determined based on the population in a place. So, even if the constituency is a big one with a large number of food outlets or a smaller one with fewer establishments, one officer will have to look after them. Thus, their workload can be enormous quite often.

In district offices, there is shortage of supervisory staff as well. For example, there are only two clerks in the Kozhikode district office. There are not sufficient vehicles too. The officials are now managing with rented vehicles most of the time.

The rising popularity of Arabian delicacies such as ‘kuzhi mandi’, the rice-and-meat dish which has its roots in Yemen, in some of the food-borne illness cases too has become a talking point.

The manager of a popular Bengaluru-based restaurant chain with branches in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode attributes this to its cheap price. At least four persons can have a wholesome meal if they order a full-plate of the ‘mandi’ biryani.

One food safety official, however, points out that the majority of the cooks hired by restaurants and hotels, especially smaller ones, overlook factors such as the optimum temperature in which the meat should be cooked and kept.

Meanwhile, organisations representing health inspectors have urged the government to rope them in the enforcement drive. Functionaries of the Kerala State Health Inspectors’ Federation and the Kerala Health Inspectors’ Union say around 4,500 health inspectors in the State should be given the job of collecting and examining food samples for surveillance.

If they take even three samples a day, a large number of food outlets can be covered. Right now, only food safety officials have the right to check outlets before giving them registration numbers and licence. If the initial inspection is done by health inspectors, a lot of irregularities can be curbed, they say.

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