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Food perils

One rather curious and perhaps disquieting revelation which is incidental but nevertheless important to the reports of the ongoing Food Festival not conforming to the guidelines of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as disclosed by one of the officials is that of the reports of various bakeries and food production units including hotels, restaurants etc. operating in filthy conditions without the fear or concern for authorities, with a large number of them being run by non-locals. Pictures of such unhygienic manufacturing conditions, as well as irrefutable evidences of these manufacturing units of deliberately fooling the customers by packing the products with post-dated labels is a serious issue which has been increasingly revealed through the efforts of proactive student groups in the state. There had also been previous instances of edible oils being dumped in dilapidated warehouses and repacked. What is baffling the general public is the role of Food Safety personnel employed by the state Government to put a check on these very practices. Although the efforts made by the civil society organizations and students bodies in revealing such harmful and potentially dangerous unhygienic practices is to be lauded, yet going ahead and destroying properties and dispensing street justice should be viewed as an extreme step, something that needs to be reined in. This is exactly where the state Government needs to step in and take hold of the situation, something we still have yet to witness. Timely and prompt action by the authorities authorized and expected to deal with the issue could have definitely prevented these social bodies and organizations from taking the matter into their own hands. The hesitation and indifferent stand apparently taken by the Government on the matter has only emboldened every Tom, Dick and Harry to carry out their own interpretation and system of punishment, turning a case of food safety issue into a vendetta tainted with shades of racism, something the society has abhorred and avoided for so long. It would not be much off the mark to state that the Food Safety Department has been one of the least known units of the Government, mainly because of the way it functions. So far, it’s main, and perhaps, the only function has been more of damage control exercises where exposures by the media and other concerned organizations is taken over, not with the intention to prevent further aberrations, but to take the heat off the pubic glare. This very attitude needs to change to one which is proactive and alert to the dangers. The heads of the department as well as the heads of state need to instill a sense of pride and importance to the employees to encourage them to be proactive about their duties. Incentives and rewards are a very enticing way of bolstering their morale. Whatever the state Government does to smoothen its machinery, it should be result-oriented. The impatient public will not hesitate to take the law in its own hand if the Government fails to take the hint and spruce up its act. Damage control exercises should give way to damage prevention measures. The alternative can only create more chaos, mayhem and lawlessness.

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