Srinagar: Nearly 30,000 illegal food units are operating in Srinagar, putting the health of millions of people at risk, Food Safety Department officials revealed on Wednesday.
Official sources told Kashmir Reader that these thousands of illegal food manufacturing and sale units are running without registration and license due to the paucity of staff and infrastructure at the Drug and Food Control Organisation (DFCO).
“Only five Food Safety Officers (FSOs) are working in Srinagar district, which has more than 30,000 food outlets. Only 2000 of these outlets are registered with the Food Safety Department,” a senior DFCO official said, wishing anonymity, told Reader.
According to him, only 700 food units in Srinagar district have been issued licenses by the DFCO.
“Of the 2000 legal food units, 1300 have an annual turnover of less than Rs 12 lakh and are registered under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. The rest 700 have annual turnover of more than Rs 12 lakh,” the official said, quoting from records.
A Food Safety Officer told Kashmir Reader that the illegal units are mostly located in downtown areas. “They hardly meet the food safety standards, but escape checks due to their location and lack of human resource in the department,” he said.
“We are overburdened as there is no supporting staff in our department. There are hardly any Samplers, Field Workers and Assistants, to conduct field inspections in the city,” said another officer.
He said the FSOs had to do many assignments at a time, including VIP duty and attending to court proceedings.
“How can we check thousands of food units single-handedly?” he asked.
Assistant Commissioner Food Safety, Srinagar, Hilal Ahmad Mir admitted that only 2000 food units are registered in the district. However, he said, there is no confirmed data regarding the total number of food units operating in the district.
“Their number is huge, as hundreds of such units come up every month,” he said.
Last week, the food safety department prosecuted an illegal food unit, Moozin’s Pizza in Karan Nagar.
“The pizza unit was running without registration. We received a complaint from a customer that she suffered food poisoning due to the pizza sold by this outlet. We have prepared the prosecution case against the owner and he will be fined up to Rs 2 lakh,” Mir said.
In May this year, the government imposed a penalty of Rs 2.1 lakh on ten food operators for selling and manufacturing adulterated and substandard products.
A penalty of Rs 80,000 was levied on manufacturers of the Snow Cap milk brand, which is run by a government-supported cooperative, Jammu and Kashmir Milk Producers Cooperative Limited (JKMPCL), situated at Cheshma Shahi.
In July, the department prosecuted 35 businesses operators for selling and manufacturing substandard and adulterated food products.
The department has started a fresh crackdown on food establishments, including manufacturers, for running their units illegally.
Officials told Reader that food business operators have been warned to desist from the malpractice of food adulteration.
“Stern action under Food Safety and Standards Act shall be initiated against those who sell adulterated and counterfeit food products,” said the Assistant Commissioner.