Munch on a mouthful of phuchka, savour an egg roll or dig into a cup of malai kulfi without worries this Durga Puja, food monitors promise to look out for you.
The East Singhbhum district health department has received a directive from the state food controller, asking it to carry out random inspection at roadside eateries, collect samples if necessary and send them for qualitative tests at the food and drug laboratory, which reopened in Namkum in Ranchi on Friday after three years.
Vendors and eatery owners near Puja pandals and fairs found guilty of using substandard ingredients, preparing food in unhygienic conditions or causing adulteration of any kind will be slapped with a minimum fine of Rs 500, which may go up to Rs 25,000, depending on the nature of offence. They will also be warned of suspension of licence.
State food controller T.P Burnwal said the additional chief medical officer (ACMO) of East Singhbhum Swarn Singh and the district's food inspector K.P. Singh were in Ranchi for a review meeting on Thursday and were strictly instructed to prevent health hazards during the five-day festivities.
"We are paying special attention to Jamshedpur because it hosts the largest number of pandals and fairs. Adulteration of food cannot be allowed, especially during a festival. With our own lab, we are better equipped to provide analysis of collected samples in a short time. Earlier, we were dependent on the Mineral Area Development Authority lab in Dhanbad," Burnwal said.
More than 280 Durga Puja pandals have been erected in and around the steel city, while a dozen fairs are also in the pipeline in Tuiladungri, Kasidih, Sidhgora, Baridih, Telco, Circuit House-Northern Town Area, Hind Club (Ranikudar), Rankini Mandir (Kadma), Burmamines, Bhuiyandih, Mango and Sonari.
ACMO Swarn Singh said fast food vendors had a tendency to use substandard oil, chemicals and contaminated water to make maximum profit in a short period of time. "Based on complaints received in the past, we will conduct surveys from Saturday to prevent risk of infection and food poisoning. We will also check whether iodised salt and healthy oil are being used," he said, adding a special team led by the food inspector was being constituted.
Bhola Sahu, who owns an eatery near Gopal Maidan in Bistupur, contended that he did not compromise on quality. "I have been in this trade for more than a decade and no customer has ever complained. We use the best oil for our chilli chicken, chicken pakodas and chow mein," he said.
Ramesh Kumar of Ramesh Egg Roll in Bistupur is also confident of meeting food safety norms. "We use good brands for our delicacies," he insisted.
ACMO Singh said the administration would follow the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (updated in 2012), to the letter. n
Will the health department be able to curb food adulteration?