Published On : Mon, Apr 4th, 2016

Food Safety: Is it your concern???

Asmita Thaokar

Dr. Asmita Thaokar, (M Sc, M Phil, Ph D) (Food & Nutrition)

Nagpur: Food poisoning is a regular and frequent feature of daily news. It is read and forgotten by readers most of the time blaming the system rather than the consumer. You heard that right – It is indeed the consumer’s moral responsibility to ensure he is consuming ‘safe food’. People eat outside home for many reasons – for a change of taste, staying away from home, travel for work, leisure or vacation, pilgrimage, festivals, and other occasions like weddings, birthday parties, and conferences etc.

When one has to eat out by no choice he has to rely on the food quality served to him, on which he has no control. He pays for the consequences of eating unsafe food. Let us see what exactly we mean by Food Safety or what ‘Safe Food’ is. Food safety refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses. ‘Safe Food’ is the food which is free from any harmful element or microbes and which is fit to consume and could not cause any kind of illness or sickness to the consumer. At home the person who is cooking food daily for the family takes great precaution to eliminate all kinds of contamination and ensures safe food. You as consumer at home always demands for the best. But the moment you step out, you forget your right. What happens when the food served is not safe. The unsafe food after consumption could cause mild to moderate reactions like vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, dizziness, headache, and fever etc. It is many times fatal as well. And that is the reason there is a strong need to understand the importance of Food Safety.

Food safety and food handler are synonym terms. Whenever there is an outbreak of food disease the food handler is held as sole responsible. Serving safe food is ethical and moral responsibility of everybody in the system of manufacturing of food; at the same time it is the responsibility of consumer. The Hygiene Code and the various Acts govern the food safety legally. To follow the Code and the Acts strictly should be the prime concern of all contributing in the food service directly or indirectly. The lack of knowledge, proper training inputs and the ‘not so strict’ attitude of the authorities tend to develop casualness in handling food and thus put food safety at risk. The consumer is the important link in the chain; who plays a vital role by ensuring the food he is consuming is SAFE.

Food Handler can be defined as the person who is directly or indirectly handling raw food material, cooked food and equipments related. They can be from any department where food related activities are being performed day in and day out. The frequent outbreaks of food borne diseases, food poisoning caused by food spoilage are now one of the biggest problems the whole world is facing today. The pollution of air and water due to various reasons is a natural cause for these outbreaks; which can be controlled to a limited extent. More use of chemicals in food processing and farming has become a challenge for controlling bodies. The immune system of humans is deteriorating day by day because of these polluting factors.

So now what is the role you and me can play in Food Safety? First and most important know the facts, read and understand the local Act related to food safety. Be aware what consumer shall do to protect him and demand only safe food. In majority incidences a consumer has a tendency to compromise the situation for meagre benefit and defend the culprit; the owner of the property. This tendency has developed the casual attitude towards food safety; putting consumer’s life at risk every time he eats out.

The basic things which an alert consumer should be doing are –

  • Eat only at FDA registered outlets. It is easy to know; since he is suppose to display the registration document on wall behind the counter. Do not eat at unregistered outlets, and inform the local FDA about it. Every town has FDA local office. You can find yours through website. It is a serious non bailable offense to run an eatery without licence which has a very heavy penalty and imprisonment. This is applicable to every eatery including the thelawalas, dhaba and caterers.
  • Object if the basic hygiene rules are being ignored. Call the Manager with a complaint book and note it down and take a photo so you have a proof. Demand and insist on only ‘safe food’.
  • Always take a pakka bill, then only you can legally register your case.
  • Food Poisoning case should be registered under Section 65 of the Act. Diners will have to follow certain steps for compensation.
  • If you come across any food poisoning situation; register FIR with local police, provide sample of vomit, and a copy of bill.
  • Submit doctor’s certificate confirming the condition.
  • Law requires FDA and police officials to complete the probe in 90 days after receiving the complaint. If the case of food poisoning is proved a restaurant have to pay up within 3 months.
  • Be an alert and aware consumer. Spread a right message… Serve safe food, eat safe food.