JAMMU: Putting health of consumers at risk, the food quality surveillance and hygiene at majority of eateries in Jammu city seemingly compromised at an alarming level as concerned officers of Food Safety Authority (FSA) wing of Drugs and Food Control Organization (D&FCO), Jammu & Kashmir has lowered safety guards listed under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSASA) against erring food establishments.
Terming the situation as deplorable, reliable sources in D&FCO, Jammu reveals “Turning nelson eye towards eateries who indulge in blatant violation of conditions laid out in the FSAS Act, 2006, the concerned officials have allegedly developed unholy nexus under quid pro quo equation with erring food establishments.
The gravity of situation can be gauged from the fact that the office of Lieutenant Governor, Jammu and Kashmir, Union Territory in an exceptional move had recently directed the Jammu Municipal Corporation authority for surprise inspection of food establishments to check sale of food articles under contaminated and shabby conditions.
Sadly, since Oct 2016, under FSAS Act, this remains the domain of FSA which except showcasing impressive data on its website to be-fool higher ups so far failed to yield desired results on ground which raises serious question mark on working of concerned officials and their supervisory officers posted in Jammu region.
There are explicit Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) rules to run a café, restaurants, bakeries, sweets shops as well as workshops engaged in preparation and packing of eatable items and the FSSAI permit is mandatory for it which is issued after proper inspection by the designated officer.
However, there is no observance of general hygiene by the owners of eateries and jeopardizing the health of consumers most of these restaurants, hotels and dhabas in JMC limits are preparing food items in shabby kitchens compromising hygiene parameters.
Sources reveals “These eateries were issued FSSAI license by the designated officer of FSA, Jammu despite the fact that they are managing cooking, processing and washing of utensils at same place without any segregation. Shockingly, some of these eateries are using lanes along drains behind their shops for washing of utensils which are used for serving food items to consumers. This disgusting phenomenon can be seen with naked eyes in green belt park area of Gandhi Nagar”.
Giving details a senior officer of FSA, Jammu on condition of anonymity said “There are more than 5000 establishments dealing in eateries in JMC limit and majority of them are running in violation of FSAS Act , 2006 allegedly in connivance with concerned officers of FSA”. Leave aside the small eateries even city renowned eateries have not adhere to general hygiene while serving and preparing food items and if the pictures of their kitchens and workshop put in public domain it surely prompt vomit spree among citizens, added one Food Safety Officer on condition of anonymity. Issuance of license to eateries and lifting of samplings is a big scandal which needs to touch at later stage, he added.
Pertinent to mention here that Dr. Parvesh Chalotra who happens to be a son of influential Congress leader and former legislator of Hiranagar Girdhari Lal Chalotra is a designated officer under FSA in Jammu region. He was deputed to D&FCO in 2018 and since then he managed to secure his pro long stay in the organization.
Reliable sources reveals that the higher ups in the organization are annoyed over poor implementation of FSA Act in Jammu in the last 3 years especially contradiction between official data and existing realities on ground. The role of four FSO who are posted in JMC limit is also questionable, revealed sources. The Food Safety Officers who are posted in Jammu city are Raj Kumar Gupta, Rajesh Singh Jamwal, Parvez Ahmad and Zulfikar Ali.
Further elaborating rampant corruption over sale of adulteration in milk and milk products, sources said “Prior to 2016 checking of milk and milk products used to be a routine affair in Jammu city. But, this practice has been discontinued after the implementation of FSSAI Act in J&K. Now, ‘Lifafa culture’ at the behest of associations has ensured freedom to milk sellers and suppliers for trading adulterated milk with impunity”.
It’s not as if the concerned FSA officials are not aware of wrong doings happening around in their domain. As part of fixing in league with market associations, they used to penalize some shop keepers as an eyewash exercise and rest free meals on regular basis for self, family and close relatives with ‘Lifafa culture and Nazrana’ as well as gifts on festivals are the rewards of maintaining silence over the quality and hygiene of food served at majority of eateries in the city, alleged a senior officer of FSA wishing anonymity. This situation is more horrible in rural areas, added the officer.
On the issue, Shakeel Rather, Commissioner Food safety, J&K said “The aim of FSA is to spruce up food safety standards for the betterment of consumers. Anyone found obstructing and undermining the sanctity of this national initiative will be dealt strictly as per law”.