Kerala Health Minister Veena George on Tuesday, 3 January, ordered ‘widespread’ inspections across all 14 districts and stringent action against outlets operating without a licence or serving adulterated and unhygienic meals, in the wake of food poisoning incidents being reported in the state, a release issued by the Health Department said.
George, according to the release, directed the Food Safety Department to inspect eateries across the state and to cancel licences of those in which adulterated or unhygienic food and unsanitary cooking conditions are found.
The action was also ordered against that functioning without any licence or registration, the release said.
“Serving adulterated or expired food is a criminal offence. The government will take strict action, including revocation of licence, against the same as it is a matter that seriously affects the people’s health and lives,” the minister said.
She said that once a licence is revoked, it would be difficult to get it again later.
The minister asked eateries as well as those who prepare and distribute food to make a conscious effort to ensure people’s health and lives are not affected.
Food poisoning reports from across the state
The directions come after incidents of food poisoning were reported from Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts in the state.
In Pathanamthitta, over 100 people suffered from suspected food poisoning on 1 January, after allegedly taking meals during a baptism function in a church near the Keezhvaipur area of the district, police had said.
Subsequently, George ordered an enquiry into the incident and called for a report.
In Kottayam, around 21 people fell ill after allegedly consuming food from an eatery there in December, the police said.
Besides that, a woman — a nurse at Kottayam Medical College — died on Monday allegedly after consuming food from the same eatery.
While her parents claimed before the media that it was a case of food poisoning and that she had eaten food from the same eatery as the 21 others, the police said there was no material or evidence to confirm either allegation.
Her parents also demanded strict action against those responsible for their daughter’s death.
Meanwhile, BJP councillors of the Kottayam Municipality raised the issue with the office of the civic body’s chairperson.
DYFI vandalises restaurant
At the same time, workers of DYFI — the youth wing of CPI(M) — vandalised the exteriors of the eatery in question, according to visuals shown on TV channels.
In the wake of these incidents and related protests, George issued the latest directions which also include orders to Food Safety Officers to ensure that every eatery and restaurant under their jurisdiction is registered and licenced and that proper and prompt action is taken on complaints made by consumers, the release said.
The release also said that the Food Safety Department would be putting in place an online portal where complaints, along with photos and videos, can be uploaded by consumers.
George claimed, in the release, that the Food Safety Department had conducted a special inspection under Operation Holiday during the vacations.
After the holidays, when incidents of food poisoning were reported, the order was again given for widespread inspection, she claimed in the release.
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