Srinagar: The much-hyped mobile food testing labs procured by Drug and Food Control Organisation (DFCO) last year have been grounded in Kashmir for lack of staff.
The food safety wing of the organisation has deputed only a driver to look after four mobile testing vans acquired to test food items on spot during market checking, sources told Kashmir Reader.
They said the government has failed to recruit separate staff for the vans, thus grounding the project.
“No technical or supporting staff has been recruited so far despite huge presence of substandard and adulterated food in the market,” a source said.
Officials said that thousands of food manufacturing and retail units were running without registration and license in Kashmir.
In September, Kashmir Reader reported that nearly 30,000 illegal food units were operating in Srinagar, mostly in old city, putting the health of millions of people at risk.
However, the illegal food units escape monitoring due to lack of human resource in the DFCO, said a food safety officer.
“We don’t have any technician, attendant or assistant for the vans. There is a shortage of samplers and field workers to conduct field inspections in the market,” he said.
An administrator said the food safety officers were asked to do multiple assignments at one time including VIP duties and attending court proceedings.
“Whenever, there is a VIP duty to analyse food of politicians including Governor, Chief Minister, President, Prime Minister and Union Ministers as per protocol, the laboratory staff was forced to go there which further delays the testing of food items in public,” the official said.
Deputy Commissioner, Food Safety Kashmir Irfana Ahmed admitted the shortage of field staff in the department. However, she said the department manages food testing through mobile vans by utilizing the services of newly deputed staff in Food Testing Laboratory.
“Like market checking for food items is important, VIP duty is also important. We manage both the duties by utilizing the services of Food Analysts and Lab technicians,” she said.