Following complaints of compromised hygiene standards in the food served in restaurants, the Gujarat government on November 6 put out a notification directing restaurants, hotels and canteens to open their kitchens so that people can see the conditions inside. The action comes close on the heels of customers posting pictures of sub-standard food on social media.
What does the notification say?
The notification, issued under the Food Safety Standard act (FSSAI) 2006, gives restaurants two weeks time to remove the signs saying “No admission without permission”, or “no admission” and such from their kitchens, thus giving access to customers to walk in and see what goes in the making of their food.
The order issued by Hemant Koshiya, Food and Drugs Control Administration (FDCA) commissioner, directed the establishments to have transparent glass partitions for their kitchens. In the case of complaints of any kitchen compromising on hygiene standards, the violator will have to pay fine up to Rs 1 lakh.
The idea behind the notification is to “empower people” and reduce the burden of the FDCA and food safety officers. The establishments are to remove the wall or barrier to kitchens and replace them with glass partitions. If not feasible, then such signboards restricting entry to the kitchen must be removed.
How is the notification being implemented?
The notification copy has been sent to all designated officers including municipal corporations across the state. The Gujarat government had earlier this year decided to strictly enforce standards for cooked food served in the state.
The officials have been told to visit the hotels, restaurants and canteens to remove signboards restricting access as well as ensure that the kitchen area is clean. The notification further states that the windows and doors of the kitchen areas should be kept open so that the customers can see the kitchen area.
The Surat Municipal Corporation was prompt to act and has already formed teams that are inspecting establishments serving cooked food, and having them remove the signs, Monday onwards. The statewide drive also covered those selling sweetmeat and dairy products, edible oil and other products with expiry dates.
Officials of the FDCA, in an intensive campaign, made out cases against seven business establishments and fined them Rs 24 lakh in total. These included a dairy product shop, an ice and cold storage, both in Gandhinagar; one establishment in Bhavnagar caught selling adulterated farali flour eaten during religious fasts and a cottonseed oil unit selling a substandard product.