Juhu Chowpatty food vendors flout health safety norms

Jul 29, 2013, 09:15 IST | Mahalakshmi Subramanian

When MiD DAY's photographer caught the food stall owners at Chowpatty without the necessary safety gear such as skullcaps, masks and gloves, many of them frantically started hunting for one to "cover" up their act

Less than 10 days ago, after MiD DAY conducted a surprise inspection at the food stalls located at Juhu Chowpatty in order to ascertain the hygiene levels, food stall owners were seen conveniently flouting health safety norms again on Sunday.

Click to view: Juhu food vendors revert back to violating safety norms

MiD DAY had earlier reported, how the vendors were flouting norms (‘Gloves, masks for FDA, sweat, germs for you’ on July 20), a month after the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) inspectors were greeted with clean and hygienic food stalls at Juhu beach. And on Sunday, they once again failed miserably when the reporter landed to conduct a check.

Earlier, the Juhu Beach Khadya Peey Vikreta Sahakari Society had earlier assured that these norms would not be flouted again, but our visit on July 28 tells a different story.

A worker at a stall can be seen without his skullcap, however even he hurriedly put on his cap and mask after he noticed our photographer. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Since it was a weekend, business started as early as late afternoon as opposed to late evenings on most other days. Food handlers and workers were seen preparing food items without wearing masks, gloves or caps.

However, when they saw MiD DAY’s photographers clicking pictures, most of the food handlers and workers started wearing gloves and masks. Others who were caught off guard and couldn’t find their gear in time asked our photographers not to take pictures.

Caught in the act: MiD DAY’s photographer caught a food handler at shop no 16, Santosh Bhel Puri without a mask on. When he saw his pictures being taken, he started wearing the mask.

When the reporter questioned food stall owners about the lack of hygiene measures, they began apologising with promises that this mistake would never be repeated.

Official intervention
“I will hold a meeting tonight to warn all the workers again. We have been telling them to wear it, but it is difficult for us to supervise them 24x7. We fined a few food vendors last week and will try to make it more stringent,” said Ramchandra Shivram Kadam, secretary of Juhu Beach Khadya Peey Vikreta Sahakari.

Authorities of the food and beverage society also said that it would take time for food handlers to get into the habit of wearing gloves and masks.

They asserted the need for periodic counselling and awareness campaigns.

Interestingly, counselling and campaigns to create awareness have been going on for over two years now i.e. since the Food Safety and Standards Act was implemented in 2011.

After the FDA check more than a month ago, nothing much has happened on this issue.

“I will ask the concerned assistant commissioner to conduct an inspection immediately. Offenders’ licences will be suspended and those who come under the registration category will have to pay a fine of Rs 25,000,” said Suresh Deshmukh, Joint Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (Food). Officials from the FDA had earlier said that conducting periodic checks is an issue due to staff shortage in the administration.

I hardly see the workers in food stalls wearing gloves and masks. It is a hygiene issue but I think now the onus is on the people who buy food. We cannot depend on officials to enforce laws. Levying fines is only a short-term solution.
--Kaushik Panchal, a resident of Andheri

Chowpatty food vendors should be dealt with stringent punishment. FDA should suspend their licences for a month and that will teach them a good lesson. And, if they continue, they should be fined and their licences should be cancelled.
--Sonam Shetty, a resident of Andheri

It is a grave risk to people's health. So I think we should also take the responsibility of making sure that the stall owners follow the rules. We should refuse to eat from stalls or pay the bill if the owner or workers are found guilty.
--Prajakta Manjrekar, a resident of Juhu

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