IIT Canteen owner didn't have licence to serve

Oct 04, 2011, 13:54 IST | Urvashi Seth

On inspection of documents, FDA discovered that the private caterer who had been running the IIT-B canteen did not have the mandatory premise licence

On inspection of documents, FDA discovered that the private caterer who had been running the IIT-B canteen did not have the mandatory premise licence

With no clarity on what caused the deadly case of food poisoning among 600 IIT Bombay (IIT-B) students last week, who fell sick after eating in the canteen, the Food and Drug Administration Department (FDA) has come down heavily on the canteen owner.

The FDA will take a decision to revoke the licence of the canteen owner after inspecting the owners' documents. They are also waiting for the students' test reports before taking any action. 

Something fishy: During investigations in the food poisoning case in
which 600 people fell sick, it was revealed that the caterer of the hostel
canteen has a licence of the Thane branch, which is not applicable to run
a canteen in other parts of the city. File pic

In the midst of their investigations, FDA found that the private caterer who has been running the canteen, did not even have the mandatory premise licence to serve. An officer on the condition of anonymity revealed that the only licence he had was the licence of their Thane branch, which is not applicable when you run a canteen in other parts of the city.

"Only after receiving test reports and after seeing their documents we will take a call. We might also take them [owners] to court. We have brought this to the notice of IIT-B authorities and have also asked the canteen owner for an explanation. It was the job of the institute too, to keep a check on the required licences," said Suresh Deshmukh, assistant commissioner (food) FDA.

Although pathology reports of stool samples of students showed that the deadly strain of Escherichia coli (E.coli) and Klevsiella bacteria had caused the infection, samples of noodles, ajinomoto (monosodium glutamate) and water, which were sent to the laboratory for testing, are still awaited.

"About six stool samples were tested and all had E.coli, which can cause stomach infection. E.coli is already present in our intestines to a certain level, but it can cause infection depending on the severity of the bacteria strain. As a precautionary measure the FDA has also seized the noodle packets, sauces and ajinomoto from the supplier who provides provisions to the canteen," said Deshmukh.

Meanwhile, an officer from FDA revealed that the institute had tried to hide the incident of food poisoning. "They [IIT-B] have tried to hide the incident. On the day of the incident, we were not let in. Only after threatening them of dire consequences were  we let in," said a source from FDA.

The incident
Nearly 2,000 students live in IIT-B's hostels 12, 13 and 14, which share a common mess. On Sunday evening, 600 students fell sick after having Chinese food from the canteen in the institute. Chinese food, which is not often on the menu, was served. Dinner comprised of fried rice, noodles, gobi manchurian, rice, dal and an optional dish of chicken. After the meal many students complained of stomach ache and started vomiting the next morning.

The Other Side
In a statement sent through an e-mail, IIT-B mentioned the following, "A fresh tender for running the mess for Hostel- 12, 13 and 14 is being floated and the mess contractors, M/s Aditya Caterers who were running this mess have been blacklisted. An independent committee has also been constituted by the Director of IIT Bombay to investigate in to the matter and avoid such events from recurring in future." When contacted Jaya Joshi, spokesperson for IIT-B, denied that the caterer did not have the mandatory licence. "Nothing of this nature was brought to our notice. For the first time something like this took place in our institute."

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