Diwali delicacies may be unsafe as food safety officers’ crunch hits testing

This Diwali be extra careful while buying delicacies. Here's why

Beware before you plan to buy sweets and chocolates for your family this festive season. For more than a year now, 60 per cent posts of food inspectors have been lying vacant. This is the peak season when the food department conducts rigorous checks on the shops selling milk and milk products. Lack of these inspectors might hamper the overall sampling process.

There are 32 sanctioned posts of food safety officers of which 20 posts have been lying vacant for more than a year now. The food safety officer assists the designated officer in all matters related to field inspections, including collection of samples and instituting prosecution proceedings in a court of law in defaulting cases.

The department has been waiting to get food inspectors for long but nothing has happened. The Food and Drug department of Delhi keeps surveillance over the market by organising surprise inspections and raids and collecting samples of such food articles which can be potentially adulterated, sub-standard or misbranded.

The department, on an average, receives 125 food samples in a month for testing. Sources in the health department added that due to the vacant posts, the overall process gets hampered.

Officials added that due to large number of food business operators in Delhi, the role and availability of such officers is extremely important. In 2014-2015, the department collected 1,480 samples of food items and sent them for testing.

“The posts have been lying vacant for more than a year now. We have escalated the matter to Delhi government and soon new people will be hired. Such posts should not remain vacant for long, as these officers have a direct link to people’s health,” Dr Mrinalini Darswal, Commissioner, Department of Food Safety, Delhi government told Mail Today.

The food inspectors are hired by Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB). There are 11 districts in the capital, for which there are 12 food safety officers.

Interestingly, apart from conducting regular inspections, these food officers have other duties. With these 12 officers, the department has begun the rigorous checking of the food items. “Our focus is to check the raw materials.

During this season, the shopkeepers mix the old and stale food with the new packets and try to sell it to the customers,” added Dr Darswal.

The department is also working on getting a hi-tech upgraded lab for testing food samples. Experts add that the lab will have better infrastructure, more people and upgraded equipment.

As per the official process, the food department receives a complaint about an adulterated food item, the report is then marked to the designated district officer, who along with the food safety officer visits the shop to collect the samples.

The samples are then sent for testing where the food analyst supervises the work and sends the reports back to the concerned department.

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