Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shop owners seek to water down food safety guidelines

KOZHIKODE: Next time you stop at an outlet for a drink or snack, think twice. Traders' organizations in the city have come out against the food safety commissioner's directions to ensure use of good quality water in shops and appoint medically fit employees. They plan to to approach ministers and state-level officials with a plea to relax the regulations. As per guidelines issued by the food safety commissioner to food business operators (FBOs), November 30 was the deadline for complying with the quality norms. The warning makes it clear that food safety officials will be able to inspect juice parlours from December 1 and cancel the licence of those who flout guidelines. "It is not practical to follow more than half of the 20 guidelines," said Ashraf Moothedath, district general secretary of Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES). KVVES representatives said some food safety officials unnecessarily insist that FBOs use water supplied by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA). Traders also cite non-availability of employees as a hindrance. The guidelines state that FBOs must test water quality every six months and keep the test results at the shop. The Food Safety Commissionerate also stresses cleanliness and medical fitness of shop employees. K Sethumadhavan, the owner of a cool bar at West Hill, said he bought water from different suppliers as it was not possible to ensure its quality. "Obtaining a certificate for water quality every six months is impractical," he said.
The traders alleged that KWA was unwilling to allow them non-domestic water connections and that applications of nearly 150 traders are pending before it. With KWA connection, it would be easier for us to follow the directions, they said. Meanwhile, district designate officer of food safety, Muhammed Rafi, clarified that it was not the source of water that mattered but its quality. "I don't know what persuaded the traders to come up with the excuse that they do not have KWA connection," he exclaimed.
"Each morning, we are forced to go to Palayam in search for migrant manual labourers as no one is willing to work as a regular employee," said Sethumadhavan, adding that it was not possible to present all such persons before doctors and get medical certificates.
Most shop owners said they are keen to serve good quality food and drinksto customers but refuse to comply with the directions. "Smalltime traders can't maintain the same standards as that of a high-class hotel," said Ashraf Moothedath, KVVES district general secretary.
"Though the deadline for complying with the guidelines ended on Saturday, we expect to get relaxation as we maintain a good rapport with food safety officials," said K Sethumadhavan,

Monday, November 25, 2013

Valuable insights in book on food safety

Food safety problems in the state are showing a declining trend, as per a study conducted by Food Safety Department (FSD). The operations of the department had helped achieve this.
The Commissionerate of Food Safety had taken the initiative to educate and make food business operators aware of the need for scientific and healthy modes of food processing in the wake of rising health hazards due to the unhygienic handling of food material.
It was in this context that A K Mini, Kollam District Officer of Food Safety Department, was entrusted with the job of bringing out a book on food safety by Biju Prabhakar IAS, Commissioner of Food Safety.
Health Minister V S Sivakumar launched the book this month and the book conveys the practices to be followed for safe food processing. This book is being given free of cost to food business operators and Food Safety Department is planning to bring out more books in this regard in the context of encouraging response.
Given her 26 years of experience in this field, Mini had taken the opportunity to explain in the book the important rules on food safety.
“The effective functioning of the Food Safety Dept depends on its following the rules of evaluation, education and enforcement. In the first phase of evaluation the real issues existing in food processing are evaluated. In the second phase the stress is on educating food business operators in following healthy modes of food processing. In the third phase the stress is on enforcement of norms legally,’’ said Mini. Currently, the Food Safety Dept is in the educating phase and is educating food business operators. ‘’Health and safety of a society depends on the action of each and every person in the food chain; like manufacturers, processors, importers, exporters, hoteliers, store keepers, retailers etc. If all in this chain are aware about the scientific and safe modes of food handling, the whole chain will be safe,’’ Mini said.
The book also contains warnings about legal implications to those who violate norms. “This book is being supplied free of cost to all in the food processing sector,’’ Mini said.

Food safety department's office plan caught in legal dispute

KOCHI: The food safety department's plan to construct a new office building in Kothamangalam to seat the circle officers of Kothamangalam and Muvattupuzha seems to have hit a roadblock, with the grandson of the person who reportedly handed over the land to the health department in 1960 making a claim on the land. The department claimed that the disputed 15 cents of land were handed over to the health department to set up a family welfare centre and the PWD even built a building for the centre in the property. But with the upgrading of Kothamangalam panchayat to municipality in 1978 the centre was closed down. Later the building was used as food inspector's office and the office functioned from the building for more than 10 years. As the building was not in a good condition, the food inspector's office was shifted to the Muvattupuzha taluk hospital temporarily in 2005. With the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act, the food safety department made plans to set up a building in the land for its Kothamangalam and Muvattupuzha circle offices. "The encroachment took place in October this year. The department was planning to construct a building in the property. The PWD has already prepared a project for it which is under consideration of the state government," said C Benny, food safety officer, Kothamangalam. He added that as per the records of the municipality the property belonged to health department and it has been paying tax for it. The food safety department said that it had already brought the issue to the attention of the district collector and district medical officer.
The additional district medical officer, Dr Suhitha K, visited the spot last week as part of the investigation conducted by the health department. Ernakulam district collector Sheik Pareeth said he has called a hearing to solve the issue. "The resurvey of the land would be done to confirm whether there was any encroachment," he said. Meanwhile, Dr Arun Jose Abraham -- who has approached the Muvattupuzha court claiming that the land belongs to him -- said, "I inherited the land from my father and have all the documents to prove my ownership. I have been paying tax for the land since I inherited it."
He said the health centre was allowed to function in their ancestral home on humanitarian grounds.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Safety and hygiene of Mid Day Meal - Guide lines issued

Registration mandatory for schools with mid-day meals

 The DPI office has asked all schools that are part of the mid-day meal programme to get registration from the food safety commissionerate.Schools have also been instructed to conduct a health check every three months to ensure that those who cook food under the mid-day meal programme did not suffer from contagious diseases.These were part of  the circular issued to schools on the hygiene of the food prepared under the mid-day scheme. As per the circular, a senior teacher of the school should be given charge of the  programme.A school feeding committee with the doctor of the nearby primary health centre and a representative of the students should be constituted in  each school.The principal of the school or the teacher in charge of  scheme should inspect the food to be distributed daily. The provisions for preparing the food should be purchased only from an outlet with licence from the food safety commissionerate.If the authorities found that the quality of the products supplied was low,  it should be informed to the nearest food safety officer.Workers with contagious diseases should be asked to stay away from cooking food and they should be instructed not to scratch their head while preparing food.They should also be asked not to use artificial nails or jewellery while preparing food and  should be directed to wear clean clothes.

Saturday, November 16, 2013



FSSAI Tamil advt.

Safety guidelines for juice shops in Kerala

The Commissioner of Food Safety has issued a set of guidelines to be followed necessarily by juice shops across the State, as prescribed by Section 30 (d) of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006.
The Commissioner said the guidelines had been issued as many food poisoning cases were being reported by customers of juice shops. A majority of these shops were using milk, ice and water of suspect quality.
All juice shops should have FSSA licences or registration, which should be displayed prominently. The water and ice should be safe and of the prescribed quality.
The fruits, sugar, nuts and other additives used to make juices or milk shakes should be bought only from shops or outlets or traders who had a FSSA licence and the purchase bills should be kept. All packed food items should have the necessary label information. The details of purchase — name of the shop/trader, quantity, price and so on — should be entered in a register systematically and should be produced for inspection.
The water being used should be from a source of impeccable quality and the quality of the water source should be tested every six months at a government-approved analytical laboratory. These reports should be kept in the shop.

Store properly

All food items, including water, in the shops should be stored in covered containers of food-grade quality.
The fruits should be of good quality, with no trace of fungus. The fruits should be washed and refrigerated. Ice should not be stored in polystyrene boxes, but in freezers or ice boxes. Prepared juice should not be stored for long in the fridge.
Food safety officials pointed out that most of the shops were storing milk in freezers well beyond the expiry period for use in milk shakes. This was an unsafe practice.
All employees in juice shops should have medical fitness certificates. They should strictly follow hygienic practices in handling food. Those with any skin conditions or infectious diseases should not be allowed as employees in food businesses.
The environment in which juice was prepared should be clean and the implements used for preparing juices such as mixers, juicers and strainers should be cleaned after every use. The refrigerator and freezer should be cleaned regularly and the last date on which it was cleaned should be displayed on the fridge.
The Food Safety officials have warned of cancellation of registration/licence if these conditions are violated. A period of three weeks has been allowed within which all juice shops should ensure that they are equipped to follow all FSSA guidelines.
Food Safety wing will start inspections on December 1 and juice shops which are found to be failing in hygiene and safety standards will have to face legal action, the Food Safety Commissioner has warned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poor hygiene in Trivandrum eateries gives rise to typhoid fears

The district has had an explosion of typhoid cases this year, including two suspected typhoid deaths, pointing to poor levels of food safety. The district health administration, which went on an intensive drive across the district on Tuesday as part of the SAFE Trivandrum initiative, examining eateries, bakeries, juice shops and ice factories, found that hardly 25 per cent of the food handlers in these outlets had health certificates.All those who eat out regularly are at serious risk of contracting the infection, health officials said.Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella typhi, transmitted directly through contaminated food and water and at times, through someone who is infected or is a chronic typhoid bacilli carrier. Sewage contamination of drinking water in poor sanitary conditions is a clear risk.
“Last year, the district reported 411 cases of typhoid. But this year so far, we have had 857 cases and two deaths (one confirmed), following which we have put our entire health field staff on alert. This should serve as a warning to all those running food businesses because the way food is handled in their eateries and the hygiene habits and the medical fitness of all the food handlers are seriously under question,” District Medical Officer K.M. Sirabuddin said.
In Tuesday’s inspections, health officials examined 1,783 institutions. Of the 2,197 food handlers in these institutions, only 431 had health cards. Of the 315 migrant workers employed as food handlers, only 71 had health cards.
No follow-up
“All of these institutions, except 222, had FSSA licences. But given the unhygienic conditions in which food is handled in many of these eateries, it is clear that there have been no follow-up measures after the issue of licences. We issued closure notice to six shops – in one of these, we found the cook with a major, festering burn on his hand continuing to handle food,” a health official said.
The district has been reporting at least eight to 10 cases of typhoid every day. There have been no outbreaks and all the cases are scattered. This makes it all the more difficult to identify a common source of infection.
Chronic carriers
Typhoid can lead to dangerous complications if it is not treated early. Though it is curable through the use of antibiotics, a certain percentage of people continue to harbour the typhoid bacilli even after they recover and are fully free of any symptoms. These people remain chronic typhoid carriers because the bacilli are present in their intestinal tract and are shed through stools.
Health officials said such healthy carriers were more dangerous than those with active typhoid fever as there was no way to recognise a typhoid carrier except by culturing their blood or stool samples.
“This is why it is so very important that all food handlers should have health cards, which should be renewed every six months after proper medical investigation. A healthy but chronic typhoid carrier engaged as a food handler can give typhoid to several people if he handles food with unwashed hands after using the toilet,” a public health official said.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

FSSAI won't relax stand on labelling

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India () has put its foot down and said “labeling requirements will not be relaxed” for any packaged food supplier as these are very “sensitive” products. It also maintained that the law mandates printed or inseparable labeling on such products. “The law of the land is valid for everyone - for domestic suppliers as well as importers – and all are expected to follow it. A regulator’s duty is to implement the law and not violate it…Food is so sensitive and there is no question of relaxing the labeling requirements for pre-,” FSSAI Chief Executive Officer Dillip Kumar Samantaray told Business Standard. The food regulator’s comments comes in the wake of several containers of packaged food products carrying imported chocolates, crispies, gourmet cheese, olive oil, biscuits, noodles, pasta, jams, honey, oats and sauces etc being blocked at various ports and airports across the country in the absence of a clearance from FSSAI. The regulatory agency, which supervises import of food items to ensure quality, refused permission to these products citing labelling requirements as per the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 that came into force in 2011.
According to Samantaray, these products were refused permission during visual inspection conducted to primarily check the labeling requirements etc. He said most of these products were carrying stickers with various information, whereas stickers are allowed to differentiate between vegetarian and non-vegetarian products, and to specify the name and address of the importer. “The law of the land requires all other information to be printed on the pack,” Samantaray insisted.
He said that food is a sensitive commodity and especially products like jams and chocolates are mostly consumed by children and therefore quality and specifications cannot be compromised by any means. “Law should be equal for everyone. Even if domestic manufacturers export products to other countries, they are required to abide by the law of that country. Then why should India not ensure health of its citizens,” Samantaray said.

U.S. FDA moves to ban trans fats, citing health risks

The FDA said reducing partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from the American diet could prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.
If its proposal becomes final, the oils, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat, would be considered food additives and could not be used in food unless authorized.
The ruling would not affect naturally occurring trans fat that occurs in small amounts in certain meat and dairy products, the agency said.
The FDA's proposal is subject to a 60-day public comment period.
Trans fats are common in a wide range of processed foods including crackers and cookies, frozen pizza and refrigerated dough, coffee creamers and ready-to-use frosting, said Mical Honigfort, a consumer safety officer at FDA.
The American Heart Association lauded the actions as a step forward in battling heart disease.
"We commend the FDA for responding to the numerous concerns and evidence submitted over the years about the dangers of this industrially produced ingredient," the AHA's Nancy Brown said in a statement.
Hydrogenation is a chemical process that converts liquid vegetable oils into solid or semi-solid fats, which are preferred for baking and have a longer shelf life.
The dominant vegetable oil used in the United States is soybean oil. The FDA's announcement sparked a rapid sell-off in Chicago soyoil futures prices by creating uncertainty about its impact on vegetable oil demand. Soyoil fell by about 1.5 percent to 40.52 cents per pound, its lowest level since October 29, in heavy trading.