It takes someone like the dynamic Pallavi Darade, Maharashtra’s Food & Drugs Commissioner to hunt down and unearth the unpalatable truth of unhygienic and unsafe kitchens in the city.
Besides several errant restaurants, popular food ordering apps also patronised a lot of these unsafe kitchens and had to delist several as a consequence of the alarming findings. The raids and what has been unearthed has only proved beyond doubt that it is important for us to be alert and cautious at an individual level.
The penchant for`Take-Away’ and Door Delivery of food has now become an integral part of the lifestyle of our citizens and their families.
One evening, I overheard a verbal argument between a mother and her teenaged son who happened to my neighbours. The mother was angry that her son had spent over Rs.20,000 in a month on ordering food since he felt his mother was cooking boring food.
She later told me that it has become an addiction with him and she just doesn’t know how to control it.
In another instance, a young mother was proudly telling her friends during a break at a movie theatre that her 10 year old daughter has had home food since the last four days and she has been pestering her to take her out to a restaurant.
It shocked me that the `eating out culture’ has seeped in so deep and in the last several years, one can see its reflection in childhood and teenage obesity and increasing lifestyle diseases amongst the young and the middle-aged citizens too.
In a shocking revelation, high profile App delivery companies were issued notices by the FDA early this month, for patronising unlicensed vendors who cook in unhealthy and unhygienic conditions and operated from dingy kitchens without license.
Over 113 such eateries in Mumbai have been asked to shut down. Darade stated that these food aggregators have the legal responsibility of delivering safe and hygienic food till it reaches the doorstep of the consumer.
If you run a restaurant that delivers food but you know you could have better hygiene then you should get a Fremont Exterminator in to make sure you’re pest free and start improving your hygiene. You don’t want to be shut down due to poor conditions. However there are some restaurants who are looking at improving or maintaining good health and hygiene standard, with frequent cleaning of their eatery or restaurant, using something like this wet dry vac Bissel to ensure their floors are clean of dust particles that may enter air.
The consumer, she said, has the right to know the source of the food. Despite requesting the food delivery app entrepreneurs to give a list of their vendors, they did not respond. She thus asked her department to independently investigate and came out with a drive, unprecedented in the history of FDA.
In fact, in July, the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India had sent a directive to all these food app companies to voluntarily de-list unregistered kitchens.
As per news reports, some 10,000 of them were de-listed which highlights the horror of this business that directly assaults people’ health and the fact that these companies had not done enough despite the directive.
As for the Pune restaurants, the results of the raids on established restaurants are not surprising. When we had conducted Inspection of files under Section 4 of the RTI Act way back in 2010, in PMC’s health department at various zone levels, we found that some of the best names including five-star restaurants in several neighbourhoods had compromised with hygiene and health safety.
The most common thing was a dirty kitchen which did not have a proper waste management system and lacked the required cleanliness.
In fact, noted RTI activist, Vijay Kumbhar, had paid visits to many well known restaurants and was aghast to find that the air of the exhaust fan fitted in the toilets directly released in the restaurants’ kitchen.
Last week too surprise raids conducted by the FDA revealed that popular restaurants on Fergusson College Road patronised by thousands every day have also fallen short of the required health and hygiene standards.
The raids on various commercials streets of Pune, revealed that besides unclean kitchens and food storage, the hygiene of the chefs and bartenders also were questionable as no routine health checkups were done by the management.
This goes to show that nothing has changed and errant food entrepreneurs are busy making money at the expense of our health.
Consequent to a hectic urban lifestyle, takeaways and online orders are very convenient. There is no harm in ordering outside food as long as it is impeccable in health and hygiene standards.
That responsibility lies in the hands of these new App Aggregators and traditional restaurateurs who are minting money due to the fast paced life of people.
If you have eaten outside and develop any health issues like a bad stomach or fever within within 24 to 48 hours, it could be the food you have eaten. Complain and take it up with the PMC health department or FDA and let them check through an audit. Let us help these authorities in social audit, for this is a cause of utmost importance.
Of course, best would be to avoid eating out and indulge in simple, home made food. Incidentally, I am told that most restaurant owners rarely eat at the their own place. They perhaps believe in the Bollywood song, `Dal, roti khao, prabhuke guun gao’ (eat the simple dal and roti and praise the Good Lord.’)
As for me, I have become extremely suspicious about outside food and can almost instantly figure if there is anything amiss. I guess, it is best to be your own Food Inspector!
God helps those who help themselves!
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
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