Wednesday, November 26, 2008

25,000 outlets, but only four food inspectors

25,000 outlets, but only four food inspectors
Virupaksha Hokrani | TNN

Bangalore: Here are some figures for Bangalore Metropolitan Area (BMP) that are sure to give you indigestion:
2,315: Number of licensed bars & restaurants
6,000: Hotels and other eateries
14,000: Provision stores
30: BMP health ranges
12: Sanctioned health inspectors
4: Actual number of health inspectors
Yes, you have read it right. BMP area indeed has only four food inspectors. Of the four, one is always on VVIP duty. That effectively means there are three people in town to ensure that the 25,000-odd food outlets in the city serve hygienic, safe food fit for human consumption. Each inspector in reality is expected to keep tab of an inhumanly 8,300 food joints. Are you then surprised that the incidence of food adulteration, contamination that lead to diarrhoea, ulcers or even some times jaundice is on the rise in Bangalore?
The numbers listed above do not cover roadside eateries (the chat, bhel, noodle shacks) or dabbas found in every nook & cranny of the city. BMP has divided the city into 30 ranges and placed its requirement at one food inspector for each range. The government has sanctioned a mere 12.
Dr T L Gayathri, BBMP chief medical officer, says: “Despite writing to the government several times, adequate staff has not been provided. The government has to provide 50% of the staff for the health cell of BMP. But whenever staff is transferred or they retire, government has not been giving any replacements. No appointments have been made in several years. The present inspectors have been working for more than ten years. We have asked for more inspectors and sent 4 inspectors for training.” Food inspectors have no time TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Bangalore: The few food inspectors in BBMP areas agree that they are not in a position to do the frequent checks they are supposed to. Out of four while three will be on regular duty, one is always trailing the chief minister and other VVIPs whose food has to be checked.
Routine, administrative work like attending court cases, filing reports and answering various RTIs eat into the inspectors duty hours with no time left for inspections.
When TOI contacted BBMP officials seeking details of complaints received on food adulteration or contamination, they claimed they didn’t have such records. “As we have only four inspectors we cannot concentrate on any thing properly. Our hands are full. We have written to the government to appoint more inspectors,” being the response.
Dishearteningly they believed, “Even if the government fills the sanctioned posts it is practically impossible to check each and every food outlet. People have to be cautious and aware. Only then adulteration can be controlled.”
Towards this BMP health cell is trying to create awareness among people regarding the food they eat outside. People should come forward and complain if they find any adulteration, says Dr Gayatri.

Food inspectors are supposed to collect food samples from various eateries, provision stores and analyze them according to the guidelines listed in the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. But this has not been happening on a regular basis because of staff shortage. The samples are now checked only when there is a complaint

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