BIS finalises street food norms

Standard to ensure vendors follow hygienic practices and serve food safe for health

By Salma Rehman
Published: Thursday 28 June 2012

Almost everyone in urban India relishes street food, but there are no regulations in place to ensure that the food is safe and prepared in hygienic conditions. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) now plans to plug this loophole. It has finalised the norms for street food vendors.

The standard norms are yet to be made public. BIS officials say the standard pertains to food safety in terms of the location of vending spots and hygienic food preparation practices to be followed by the vendors. A check will be kept on both mobile and fixed food vendors.  BIS will also ensure that the standards related to water  and waste management are not overlooked, said a BIS official.

The National Association of Street Vendors ( NASVI) has welcomed the move and said it expects all the street vendors to abide by the rules laid down by BIS. Vinod Simon, the programme manager of NASVI said that the government at the same time should also provide basic facilities like supply of drinking water and disposal of waste so that the vendors can follow the standard.

Food and consumer affairs minister K V Thomas also spoke about the need of ensuring safe and quality food to people who are more aware about food safety issues today. He was speaking at a meeting on food safety organised recently.

Mentioning the importance of the street food sector as a source of livelihood for a vast population, Thomas said that the standard developed by BIS has immense potential to safeguard public health and also to promote the confidence of the consumer in the food industry.

This move is significant considering that a recent notification issued by the Central government under the Food Safety and Standards regulations of 2011 requires all street business operators with an annual turnover of more than Rs 12 lakh to obtain a licence, while others have to get registered. The licensing process is supposed to ensure street food vendors observe better hygiene standards. The notification complements the standard that BIS  plans to notify. But the proposal to issue licences has not gone down well with vendors. The deadline for obtaining the licenses is 5 August, 2012, which the vendors say is an unrealistic target because of the procedures prescribed. Failure to obtain licences would entail closure of operations. “ The licensing policy is non-friendly for the street vendors as it is not easy for such a huge population of vendors to get the licences so early,” complains Simon.

“We appreciate government’s effort to ensure hygienic street food as the vendors want to deliver quality food but this should not lead to eviction through policies such as licensing and registration,” he says.

Delhi's municipal officials who are in charge of public health also said the new norms would ensure better quality of food and reduce chances of infection. N K Yadav, municipal health officer for south zone said the corporation will consider the problems of the vendors as well and will try to provide them adequate civic amenities in the vending zones.

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