State food safety wing has 22 of 59 sanctioned posts vacant
GUWAHATI, May 6: A question mark hangs over the safety standards of food items that people in Assam eat as the enforcement of food safety standards in the State has long been quite shoddy.
Physicians prescribe seasonal fruits for their patients. However, in Assam, artificial ripening of fruits, especially banana, by using calcium carbide is a common phenomenon. Calcium carbide leads to skin allergies and rashes, and at times can also cause skin cancer. This is just an example. Question mark hangs over the safety standards of all food items such as vegetables, edible oil, packaged food items etc being used in hotels, restaurants and even households in the State.
For the skeleton staff in the food safety wing of the Commissionerate of Food and Drug Administration under the Department of Health and Family Welfare in the State, it is impossible to keep a close watch on the safety standards of all food items. Little surprise then that food adulterators have a field day in Assam.
The food safety wing 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 lone DO is at the wing’s headquarters at Hengrabari in Guwahati. 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, 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 visit by VVIPs/VIPs is a regular matter in Kamrup(M), the requirement of food safety is met by bringing food safety officials from other jurisdictions.
Ensuring food safety standards in the State is almost impossible for the wing that has only 37 officials from top to bottom. These 37 officials have to keep vigil on vegetable markets, fruit markets, hotels, restaurants, food manufacturing units, food packaging units and the like. The outcome of the wing being run by such a small staff is that food adulteration is rampant in the State.