Taking its concerns for hygiene at places where food is being prepared for commercial purposes to the next level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now made it mandatory for all the sweetshop owners to get their workers medically tested. The order was recently issued under the Food Safety and Standards Act that was implemented in August.
The FDA officials sought help from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) health department. The health department has been requested to issue orders to all the sweetshop owners to get fitness cards for their employees from civic-run hospitals. FDA Joint Commissioner (Food) Suresh Deshmukh said, “We’ll be paying surprise visits to places where sweets are made.
Though most sweetshops maintain hygiene, some places where sweets are made are usually unhygienic and workers who make them are at times medically unfit. There are chances that any of these workers could be a carrier of a contagious disease. So as a precautionary measure, we want shop owners to get their employees tested. We want them to produce their workers’ medical card whenever we visit their shops and ask for it.”
When asked what if sweetshop owners get their employees tested at private medical centres, Deshmukh said, “There are chances that these medical reports could be fudged. We’ll consider only those reports that have been issued by civic-run hospitals. Soon, all mithaiwalas will receive a copy of the order,” said Deshmukh. Meanwhile, Food Safety Officers (FSOs) are busy collecting samples of ghee, milk, mawa and other eatables to ensure adulteration is kept at bay. “We’ll clamp down on these adulterators, if found in the city,” said Deshmukh.
Pradeep Jain, a sweetshop owner from Kandivli, said, “This is actually an old law, which was meant for the restaurant industry. With the new FSSAI law in place, the FDA wants us to be extra careful while hiring workers. But there are limitations, as several owners hire temporary workers to meet the demand for sweets during the festive season. Hence, at times, testing each employee is not possible for smaller establishments.”
Damodar Mane, a mithai maker from a Borivli, said, “This is unfeasible. Nobody will hire us if medical checkups are made mandatory. Who will pay for the test? The government should organise free medical camps for us.”
Comply or pay
>> Penalty for substandard food: Rs 5 lakh
>> Penalty for misbranded food: Rs 5 lakh and above
>> Penalty for flouting FSO’s directives: Rs 2 lakh
>> For possessing adulterants: From Rs 2 lakh to Rs 10 lakh