There continues to be a shortage of food safety inspectors in Telangana and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it may make things worse.

A housefly in a halwa ordered by a customer in HyderabadImage: Twitter/Srinivas Bellam
news Food Safety Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - 17:21

A customer of food delivery app, Swiggy, took to Twitter on June 14 after he found a housefly in a sweet that he ordered from a popular restaurant in the city. Srinivas Bellam, said that he ordered from the Subbayya Hotel in Kondapur via Swiggy, and was shocked to find the fly in his dish. 

"They say (they're) best in safety standards, This is what they are following," he tweeted.

Many people responded to the tweet, demanding action against the restaurant and shared their own experiences when they ordered food in the city.

While in Srinivas' case, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) intervened and fined the hotel Rs 10,000 for 'unhygienic conditions', the reason the incident took place in the first place is because there continues to be a shortage of food safety inspectors in Telangana. 

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of food safety officers is even more crucial as they are the ones who ensure that hygiene is being maintained at all establishments selling food items in the state. 

The issue is, however, not new. In 2015, the Telugu media reported how carbide was being used to artificially ripen fruits, especially in Hyderabad, causing concern for public health. At the time, the Telangana High Court took suo motu cognisance of the issue and converted it into a public interest litigation. The case had come up for hearing in 2019, when the high court had ordered the Telangana State Public Service Commission to fill the vacant posts of food safety officers in the state. 

Civic activist Sai Teja says that there are enough laws to book a restaurant for selling substandard food. 

"Selling of substandard food is illegal. Establishments can be booked under Section 273 (Sale of noxious food or drink) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 546 (Penalty for possessing food which appears to be diseased, unsound or unwholesome or unfit for human food) of the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act, 1955, besides Section 56 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006," he adds.

But in Telangana, there is a severe shortage of staff who can implement these laws. 

In December, the Telangana High Court court had said that the state government was constitutionally bound to ensure the health and safety of its citizens and instructed the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) to fill 36 posts of Food Safety Inspectors that were lying vacant out of the total 61 posts in the state government. 

This included ten posts in the Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) and 26 posts in the GHMC.

Following this, the TSPSC issued a notification dated December 31, to fill up the 36 vacant posts.  

At the time, the court had said that the posts should be filled within two months. The deadline to fill the post was in February. However, six months later, the officers are yet to begin work and report to duty.

"The exams have been conducted and candidates have been selected. Counselling is underway. The TSPSC is overseeing the process. Hopefully, the posts will be filled soon," a senior official in the Commissioner of Food Safety’s office told TNM.

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