In the latest of the battle between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Business Operators (FBOs), the former levied a compounding fee on city eateries for not having medical certificates for their employees and unhygienic cooking conditions. The fee was also imposed on those eateries that were not registered with the FDA. The decision to impose the fee was taken to ensure that the FBOs adhered by the norms laid down under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Act, 2006. So far, the FDA has collected about Rs 7.30 lakhs from 132 establishments in the city by levying compound fees .
Commenting on the issue, FDA Assistant commissioner (Food) Shivaji Desai said, “Our Food Safety Officers (FSOs) are conducting random checks. It has been discovered that most of the FBOs lack health certificates of their employees or persons handling food at their respective establishments. In addition, the cooking areas at these establishments were unhygienic and lacked standards prescribed as per to the FSSAI Act. Also, there is no such word as ‘fine’ mentioned in the act for its violation. Instead, there is a provision called compounding fee.”
Stating that an employee’s health is crucial in the food business, Desai’s counterpart Dilip Sangat said a sick employee couldeasily spread the disease he was suffering from. “Sanitising the cooking area is necessary because it directly affects public health,” he added.
Refusing to pay the compounding fee, a sweet mart owner said, “I am not going to pay any fee. Our employees have been working with us since years now. And if you taking about hygiene in the cooking area, then let me tell you that we did had some minor issue which have been taken care of .”
Informing how the compounding fee is levied, Sangat said, “Our FSOs visit FBOs in the city to verify whether they have adhered by the FSSAI Act or not. If any of them are found guilty, FDAofficials issue a notice and ask the FBO to visit the office for ahearing. Assistant commissioners conduct the hearing and give the FBO a chance to explain his side for flouting the norms.
Then considering the reasons given the FBO and the intensity of the violation, we levy the fee. Time is given to the FBO to deposit the amount and make necessary changes to his establishment as per the act.”
Compounding fee is an amount levied by the FDA on FBOs whose turnover is less than Rs 12 lakh per annum and violating the FSSAI Act. Violations include non-registration with the FDA, non-availability of purchase bills business material, unhygienic kitchen and lacking medical certificates for employees who handle food items or cook food.