The city's food department has few inspectors and a lot on its plate. With Holi a week away, the administration is scrambling to check quality and hygiene standards at thousands of restaurants, shops and dairy units.
It's a mammoth task. There are nearly 50,000 eateries in Delhi and the department has just three food inspectors to spare. It will conduct an examination on Sunday to fill 20 vacant posts but recruitment will not start before next month.
KAKE DA HOTEL CONTROVERSY
The development comes close on the heels of the Delhi high court telling the department this week that it cannot pick and choose restaurants and eating joints to implement hygiene and safety standards.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva made the observation while ordering withdrawal of notices issued against Connaught Place's popular Kake-Da-Hotel, which generated controversy when a video allegedly showed dough being kneaded by foot atop the establishment. The department assured the court that it would inspect all eateries and restaurants and action would be taken against those not complying with the mandatory safety and hygiene requirements.
Last month, a Delhi government school reported a dead rat in its mid-day meal following which nine students reportedly fell ill.
Following the incident, the food safety department decided to conduct emergency inspections of all 33 mid-day meal kitchens and transportation facilities in the city.
"Presently, the department has 6 food inspectors of whom one is always on VIP duty, two are deputed on court cases and just three are on the field to collect food samples," said sources.
SHORTAGE OF FOOD INSPECTORS
The shortage of food inspection staff came to the fore last year too when just 945 samples could be lifted from eateries of which 112 were found not conforming to standards. In 2015, the department picked up 1,680 samples.
Delhi food commissioner Dr Mrinalini Darswal told Mail Today, "These food inspectors have the power to check any fivestar hotel or eatery and they can be shut down for 15 days on a single order of the food commissioner. Once these food inspectors are recruited, we will pick as many food samples as we can. The department aims to lift at least 10,000 food samples this year."
Sources told Mail Today that the department gets hundreds of food-related complaints a month and about 10 to 12 in a week, which gets doubled in the festive season.
"Milk and dairy products become top food items to be scanned," said Dr Darswal. "Not just one or two, Delhi has 50,000 food outlets including five-star hotels, restaurants and dhabas. Apart from these, the department also keeps a close watch on vegetable mandis, grocery stores and street food vendors too."
The food commissioner said surprise raids at joints would be a continuous process from now and stricter action would be taken against offenders. The department also assists the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in various projects.