The state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on a circular to introduce uniform hygiene standards across restaurants, hotels and street food joints in Maharashtra. The guidelines, to be displayed mandatorily by eateries, will make gloves, apron and a hair cover necessary for staffers handling food, and restrict those with skin infections to cook or carry food.
For a hotel or restaurant to renew its licence or for a street vendor to get registered, the owner will have to display the set of FDA formulated guidelines in a prominent spot, where all customers can view it. Across Maharashtra, there are 5.5 lakh registered hotels and small-time food vendors. Of these, at least 50 per cent are roadside stalls, data from FDA showed.
“If its turnover is less than Rs 12 lakh per year, a food stall can be registered under FDA. But for those seeing a turnover of more than Rs 12 lakh, a licence is compulsory,” said Pallavi Darade, FDA commissioner, who is processing the latest circular. “We need to get a government nod before the circular is issued to all food units,” she added. Darade said the licence of a restaurant or a hotel may not be renewed if these guidelines are not followed.
Under the guidelines, a hotel, restaurant or food stall has to cook and serve food in stainless steel utensils. They have to maintain cleanliness inside the kitchen and around the area where food is served. Only potable drinking water must be used for cooking, and those handling food must wear hand gloves, apron and hair cover. The guidelines have prohibited use of newspapers to serve food items, a common practice among street food stalls.
One of the most important guideline is to prevent any person with skin disease from cooking or serving food. Cigarette or tobacco spitting around the cooking area is prohibited. Dustbins have to be provided in restaurants and hotels.
According to Suresh Annapure, joint commissioner (food) at FDA, Mumbai has 30,000 licenced hotels and restaurants and over 75,000 food hawkers. “The objective is to educate them about hygiene. Under Schedule 4 of Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), provisions for hygienic working conditions have been stated for food preparation. But it is generally not followed,” he said.
With the onset of monsoon, doctors anticipate a rise in water-borne diseases, which can be spread through consumption of unhyegenic food. Typhoid and gastroenteritis can spread through unclean drinking water. So far this year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has recorded 645 gastroenteritis cases in Mumbai.