Food Safety Officers forced to work as helpers, clerks

Food Safety Officers forced to work as helpers, clerks
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Commissioner says decision meant to help officers work as a team

Srinagar: The Drug and Food Control Organisation (DFCO) has forced Food Safety Officers (FSOs) appointed last year to work as helpers and clerks at its headquarters, instead of posting them in different districts to monitor food adulteration and violations of the Food Safety and Standard Act (FSSA).
According to sources and official documents, 16 FSOs appointed last year for Kashmir and Jammu divisions have been attached to the Assistant Commissioner (HQS) without assigning them mandatory jobs under the Food Safety and Standard Act.
“They are working as helpers and clerks in the Food Safety wing of DFCO. Some of them are being forced to do record keeping of the department which is not their job. It’s sheer mismanagement and against FSSA rules governing the department and the officers,” said a senior food safety official.
He said that FSOs have been asked to do assignments such as VIP duty and attending to court proceedings, which has affected the work of food inspection in markets.
“Illegal food units escape getting prosecuted due to lack of human resource and manpower in the department,” the official said.
The lack of staff at DFCO has also left the mobile testing vans defunct, as almost one year has passed since the vans were allotted to the department. No technical or support staff has been posted so far for the vans, despite there being plenty of substandard and adulterated food in the market.
“Only drivers have been appointed for the four mobile testing vans, acquired to test food items on the spot during market checking,” sources said.
The vans were bought by the Food Safety Department in 2017. They have only been standing idle since in absence of technical staff.
“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. FSOs appointed for different districts have not been assigned the job,” a senior official said.
Commissioner Food Safety J&K, Dr Kabir Dar, admitted that FSOs were attached to headquarters but he justified the decision saying it has streamlined the working of the food safety wing.
“The FSOs have been posted at headquarters for a purpose. We assign jobs, especially market checking, to them as per requirement in a particular district. It has streamlined the department to a large extent,” he said.
Dr Dar said the department had formed a weekly duty roster for the FSOs to help them work as a team.
“We can send them to different districts, but that will not serve the purpose,” he said.
Sources, however, maintained that the commissioner was justifying a wrong decision. “The decision has disempowered the FSOs as they are left with no powers other than assisting another FSO already on the job in Srinagar district,” said an FSO.