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The public should demand good quality and hygiene and take it up as a movement

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Food Safety Commissioner RV Karnan who has been conducting raids on restaurants for quality and safety speaks exclusively to Wow! on the controversy that is rocking the city

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In the last four weeks, food enthusiasts who enjoy watching videos of their favorite eateries were taken aback by unsettling revelations about the kitchens in these establishments. A popular new South Indian restaurant from Bengaluru was caught using expired and unlabeled food items, while a highly-rated coffee shop in Madhapur was found cooking in a cockroach-infested kitchen. The new Food Safety Commissioner, R.V. Karnan, a 2012 IAS officer, who previously served as the Collector and District Magistrate in Nalgonda, has conducted 83 raids in 42 days across Hyderabad. He explains their necessity and how the public can help hold these establishments accountable.

WHY THESE RAIDS SUDDENLY? DID YOU GET ANY TIP-OFFS ABOUT FOOD QUALITY IN THESE PLACES?

Conducting quality checks is part of our work. We keep our eyes and ears open about food quality. Mostly the raids are random checks and could also be a tip- off by a consumer.

WHY DO RESTAURANTS SOMETIMES FAIL TO MAINTAIN STANDARDS? ABROAD, THEIR LICENSES CAN BE SUSPENDED. ARE WE BEING TAKEN FOR GRANTED?

Lack of awareness and enforcement can make some businesses complacent and take their customers for granted, resulting in a decline in food quality and hygiene standards. Increasing consumer awareness through social media and publicizing penalties can promote better practices. We can develop deterrence among eateries by highlighting the consequences of violations.

WHAT HAPPENS IF AN EATERY IS FOUND TO HAVE VIOLATIONS AND WHAT IS THE FOLLOW-UP?

For minor violations, we may issue an improvement notice with a minimum 14 days compliance deadline. Penalties vary based on the severity of the offense, such as up to Rs one lakh for unhygienic processing and up to Rs five lakh for selling substandard food. We revisit after two weeks to see if they have gotten their act right, else we levy a penalty and seek legal action, if need be.

WHY HASN’T THE DEPARTMENT CONDUCTED RAIDS ON FIVE-STAR HOTELS IN THE CITY?

Our job is to check every food related entity and we have conducted raids on five-star hotels too.

WHO’S NEXT?

We are looking at visiting food processing units such as those making pickles, podis, bakeries, biscuit manufacturers etc.

HOW CAN RESTAURANTS IMPROVE THEIR HYGIENE CONDITIONS?

By obtaining food safety training and certification, training supervisors in hygiene and manufacturing practices, hire one trained supervisor for every 25 food handlers, refresher courses for staff every two years and obtain the necessary hygiene rating certificates. We are working closely with the restaurant associations to ensure they give quality to consumers.

WHAT CAN CONSUMERS DO TO ENSURE TOP QUALITY FOOD?

The public should demand good quality and hygiene and take it up as a movement. Don’t compromise when you see poor quality, be it food or environment. Speak up if eateries don’t comply with rules.

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