CAG expresses concern about unhygienic eateries in U.T.

Report tabled in Assembly details functioning of Food Dept.

The Comptroller and Auditor General in its report on food safety has expressed serious concern at the possible adverse implications on public health due to the unregulated growth of Food Business Operators, including eateries, in the Union Territory.

The CAG report tabled in the Assembly on Thursday said physical verification carried by the audit team in food outlets revealed that several of them are operating in unhygienic conditions and without proper licence.

The report detailing the functioning of the Food Department pointed out that an inspection conducted in 89 outlets revealed that 45% of them are functioning in unhygienic conditions and were not as per the norms prescribed under the Food Safety and Standard Rules, 2011.

The inspection found that foods classified under high risk categories are being cooked and displayed in the open outside the restaurants /hotels on the roadside. Besides, the general hygienic and sanitary practices noticed in the storage of food items was “unhygienic and unfit.”’

“The food outlets were functioning near the drainage. The food was cooked in an open, unhygienic area in these outlets and the stored food was found to be infested with worms. The consumers were exposed to risk of food poisoning and other gastro-intestinal problems,” the report said.

A physical survey conducted by a joint audit team in restaurants, canteens, food manufactures, wholesalers revealed many of them were functioning without any licence, thereby giving room for them to operate outside the system. Of the 212 outlets surveyed in the Union Territory, 97 of them were functioning without any licence. Adherance to mandatory registration process would make the Food Department to properly monitor the functioning of the units, the report added.

The reports said that the Department of Food and Drug Testing lifted samples from 439 outlets in 2016-17, 420 in 2017-18 and 2,037 in 2018-19. Of the samples tested during the years, food items lifted from 33 outlets were found to be unsafe for consumption. The department had failed to initiate any action against the 33 defaulting food outlets for selling substandard items, the report added.

Pointing out that the Union Territory had only one food testing laboratory and about lack of food safety officers, the report said non-strengthening of infrastructure facilities in the laboratory had resulted in issue of test reports without analysing all the required safety parameters.

“Consumers remained exposed to unsafe food items as vital tests were not conducted in the laboratory. Even accuracy, of the test results was questionable as the existing lab is deficient in infrastructure. The gaps in the implementation of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, clearly indicated that food safety was not prioritised and given importance to as it deserved. The adverse implications on the health of the populace are thus a matter of serious concern,” the report said.

Unfruitful Expenditure

The report had also pointed out that awarding of construction of a high-level bridge without ensuring availability of requisite land for the approach road had led to unfruitful expenditure of ₹24.84 crore as the newly-constructed bridge remained unused and inaccessible in the absence of approach roads.

Also, the work for flood control project in Yanam, without ensuring site free from encumbrances and proper plan for execution coupled with inordinate delay in the finalisation of revised DPR, caused delay in executing the project for over eight years, despite an expenditure of ₹23. 11 crore.

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