FSSAI news on food safety relates how the regulator’s food safety department has seized tea with the brand name Amurtham Premium Tea in Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam. Not only has the tea been found to contain artificial colours, flavours and additives but the food labelling on the pack has a fake address. In another recent incident the FSSAI has banned Nirapara brand chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder after the samples were found to be adulterated with starch. These two incidents serve as examples to point out why it is important for the FSSAI to be vigilant and to have continuous inspections so that food in the market is safe from deliberate adulteration.
Another area that renders food unsafe is, when despite the laid down hygienic standards food handlers disregard them. According to the Public Health Association of India only 30% food handlers wash their hands before preparing food. There is no way to determine if the food handlers in various banquet and marriage halls, unlicensed street food stalls and even in registered and licensed restaurants are free of contagious skin infections, tuberculosis, cough, cold etc. There are also doubtsabout whether they are undergoing medical examinations regularly as stated in the FSSAI regulations. It is obvious that food safety cannot be guaranteed if food is handled and prepared by personnel who are not following regulatory hygienic practices. The numerous pathogenic organisms on the hands can pass on into the food if food safety measures are not followed strictly and which lead to foodborne illnesses.
Most consumers hardly pay attention to food safety news because they feel it is the concern of the government to control adulteration. The fact is that an aware consumer can also help to enforce food safety by refusing to eat in places that are unhygienic or where the eatery does not have an FSSAI license. Consumers need to be made aware that unpackaged food does not have food labelling so there is no way to know what the food contains and whether it is safe to consume or not.
In restaurants that have open kitchens it is easy to see the condition of the cooking area. However, in restaurants with closed kitchens it is not possible to see the cleanliness of the kitchen or the hygiene of the food handlers. There is also no way to determine what brand of oil and raw foods and ingredients these restaurants are using. What consumers can do is to ask to see the license of the eating places if it is not displayed in the premises and report the matter to food inspectors if the conditions are unhygienic. This will help to improve the food safety measures.
The FSSAI has also asked all food inspectors to keep a close watch on food products that are meant for mass consumption. They have increased the frequency of food sampling and testing of products so that consumers do not suffer because of unscrupulous vendors and manufacturers.