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Food standard not a safe bet in Assam!

GUWAHATI, May 20: Beware of the food you are taking in Assam! For, food safety standard in the State is not something you can trust as the Commissionerate of Food Safety has been ailing acutely due to manpower deficit since its inception in 2016.

The Commissionerate of Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was created by the State government by way of amalgamation of the proposed office of the Commissionerate of Food Safety and the existing office of the drug controller through a notification issued on April 29, 2016 under the control of Commissionerate of Food & Drugs Administration.

However, the State government bothered the least to sanction posts to man the new Commissionerate of Food Safety that is being run by only four staff – a commissioner in-charge, an attached designated officer from the enforcement wing of food safety, and two others from the laboratory wing.

The Food Safety Commissionerate in the State is an entity being run with only four staff in a two-room accommodation at the State Public Health Laboratory at Bamunimaidam in the city. It was created by the erstwhile Congress government at its fag end in 2016, and has since been lying unattended. Neglect to it has all along been in its crude form with not even a single post being sanctioned for it since its inception. The office has no sanctioned posts of commissioner, deputy commissioner, joint commissioner, upper divisional assistants, lower divisional assistants, fourth grade employees and others. Even though a proposal has been sent to the government in 2017 nothing tangible has been done as yet.

The Commissionerate of Food Safety has two wings – the laboratory wing and the enforcement wing – under it. The two wings were earlier with the Directorate of Health Services.

The enforcement wing of food safety has 59 sanctioned posts, but as many as 22 of them have long being lying vacant. The wing has only one designated officer (DO) against five sanctioned posts. The wing has been making do without any DO at its offices in Barpeta, Silchar, Sivasagar and Tezpur.

The wing has only 11 senior food safety officers against the sanctioned strength of 18. Only 25 food safety officers against the sanctioned strength of 36 are working in the State. Believe it or not, but it is a fact that Kamrup (M) has no sanctioned posts of senior food safety officers. Only two sanctioned posts of food safety officers are there. Since visits by VVIPs/VIPs are a regular matter in Kamrup (M), the requirement of food safety is met by bringing food safety officials from other jurisdictions.

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Ankur Kalita