Owner ‘used influence” to evade action over years
Srinagar: The Food Safety Department on Friday sealed the manufacturing unit of a leading sweet shop, Shakti Sweets in Residency Road for operating in a dirty condition and without the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) license since 2013.
The unit, which has been operating since 1966, was found processing the food and sweets in unhygienic condition in close vicinity of a toilet and drainage outlet.
According to officials, a team of Food Safety Officers, headed by Commissioner Food Safety, Dr Kabir Dar inspected the food operator and sealed it as for ‘serious violation’ under Food Safety and Standard Act (FSSA).
“The manufacturing unit of Shakti Sweets was sealed as it was found running without license of the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI). Till recently they would display some document issued by Srinagar Municipal Corporation five years ago. But, that was not valid because SMC doesn’t have the mandate in food business anymore,” the officials of Food Safety Department told Kashmir Reader.
The processing of the sale items was also going on in a total insanitary condition as the unit was run close to drain and toilet which was choked and bad smell was emanating from it, they said.
“The utensils and machinery used in the unit as well as the floor and walls were in bad shape and required immediate repairs,” said a food inspector adding that some harmful chemicals were also found within the premises.
“The unit was sealed for further investigation besides samples were lifted for analytical purpose.”
This is the fifth time that the Food Department is raiding Shakti Sweets in last few years, as per sources.
“In last three, the unit was raided many times for the same unhygienic problems. However, the operators were let-go after simple fine,” sources said.
According to a former prosecuting officer, the unit was also found selling substandard items to the customers in 2016 but no action followed.
“It should have been sealed then, but the political influence saved them. The department had been warning them to improve upon the sanitary condition of the unit. But, the owners never listened to them as they continue to operate in a dirty condition,” he said.
Another official told Kashmir Reader that the owners of the shop never faced strict action as “they have been escaping prosecution using political and bureaucratic influence against food safety department every time his shop was raided”.
“Many mainstream politicians including those belonging to the BJP called us asking to be lenient on Shakti Sweets. The owners even used minority card to evade action for many years,” he said.
The official said the influence was used this time also but the department decided to ‘live stream’ the raid on social media so that everything is done under the public glare and strict action is taken on the shop and its manufacturing unit.
“We played little smart this time. We advised our higher-ups to record the raid live on Facebook so that people come to know about the wrong practices of the influential food business operator. Still we got many phones calls from VIPs to let them go this time also,” he said.
“Some trade unions also approached us to be lenient on Shakti Sweets but we don’t want to compromise on the life of people who consume these sweets on regular basis,” he said. “We are now waiting for test results of the samples taken from the sale unit of Shakti Sweets. If it comes substandard and unsafe, the shop will also be closed.”
Commissioner of Food Safety, Dr Kabir Dar refused to share details about the action that followed the raid.
“We are yet to consolidate the information from the field. Our offices are in a transition phase due to Darbar move that is why we are not able to compile the information and issue the release,” he said.