While the Food Safety Standard Act 2006 will come into effect on August 4 across the country,health authorities in the state have already written it off. They say the Act cannot be implemented here given the lack of infrastructure.
Member Mayor-in-Council (MMiC),Health,Partha Hajari said: For starters there are only 26 health inspectors for 141 wards. Is it physically possible to implement the Act in such a scenario? Will I be able to control the food quality of the streetside phuchkawalas? Just like the problems of hawkers,unemployment and population explosion,this,too,will remain unsolved, he said.
Sweetmeat traders are afraid that certain norms of the Act,if implemented,could drive them out of business. The raw materials and the finished products need to be tested in a microbiology laboratory and a report has to be submitted. Of the few lakh sweetmeat manufacturers in the state,only two have such a lab. We have also been asked to test the water used and send a report. The water is supplied by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. What can we do if they supply contaminated water? Besides,in some cases,we have to mix equal amount of starch with chhena for preparing sweets. Those would be tagged as adulterated, said R K Paul,honorary general secretary,Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabasayee Samity.
He said the FSS Act has some worrying penalties as well. Non-compliance with the norms can attract a fine of over Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment of seven years. This is not fair. There should be a clear demarcation for sweetmeat traders and how they should be doing business because the character of Bengali sweets is different from those of the rest of the country, Paul said.
He also said there should be government test centres where manufacturers could test products against a fee.
Authorities have,however,assured there would be a relaxed application of the norms. The application would be relaxed due to the lack of infrastructure. It cannot be applied strictly overnight, said Hajari.
Public health engineering minister Subrata Mukherjee said the sweetmeat traders need not worry. We will concentrate more on the pesticide content in vegetables and fruits, he said.