Even as the February 4 deadline for food business units to register themselves under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 is fast approaching, just about 5,500 units have complied with the requirement in the district so far. According to estimates, about 14,000 units are engaged in the food sector in the district. Of these, about 4,000 would require licence and the rest would have to be registered.
All food business operators with a turnover of Rs.12 lakh should obtain licence from the designated officer and those with turnover of below Rs.12 lakh should register themselves with the respective food safety officer as per the provisions of the Act. Apart from hotels and restaurants, roadside eateries, grocers and departmental stores selling food products, and meat stalls would have to register or obtain licence depending on the turnover.
The State government has established Tamil Nadu Safety and Drug Administration Department to enforce the Act. A district-level designated officer and 22 food safety officers have been appointed for Tiruchi district. Five food safety officers have been appointed within the Tiruchi Corporation limits and one each for the three municipalities and 14 blocks of the district.
When contacted, A.Ramakrishnan, designated officer for the district, TN Food Safety and Drug Administration (Food Wing), said about 5,000 units have been registered and another 489 issued licence so far.
The functions of the department would include taking steps to ensure that food supplied to people was safe, issuing licence to micro and small traders and other commercial establishments engaged in food business, preventing sale of food products hazardous to public health, creating awareness of food safety, and conducting surveillance
With just about 20 days left for the registration, traders’ organisations have been calling upon the government to defer the enforcement of the Act and sought further time to register or obtain licence.
On Wednesday, Tiruchi District Bakery Owners Association held a meeting to discuss the issue and urged the government to defer the enforcement of the Act. “There is still not much awareness of the Act among bakers and we need more time to register or obtain licence,” said B.Sundararajan, president (in-charge) of the association. Mr.Sundararajan also felt that it would not be practical to conform to several provisions of the Act.
However, district officials said that a series of meetings have been conducted at the district and block levels to sensitise traders to the provisions of the Act. The fears of traders, the officials said, were exaggerated. In fact, the Act would prove to be advantageous to traders. The do’s and don’ts are clearly laid down in the Act unlike the previous acts. Traders are not treated as accused under the Act and the District Revenue Officer will be the adjudicating officer and pass orders on the reports sent in by the designated officer.