A report was published in this newspaper to warn readers that ice products made by unregistered establishments and sold by street vendors in Goa’s towns and villages, very favourite items of refreshment for commoners, might not be safe to consume. The ice used in the making of these products usually does not come from registered and regulated ice factories. The people who are making ice-creams and ice candies sold by street vendors might be using contaminated water from wells or public supply taps to make ice. Safe ice is made from treated water. Unregistered ice makers could not be using treated water as that is beyond their economy of scale. Ice consumed in hotels and resorts is procured from big factories equipped with filtration and water treatment facilities. However, some eateries and bars across the state might also be using ice made from unsafe water.
The state food regulator, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has failed to ensure that ice products sold by street vendors are safe to consume. The FDA does make random checks and does penalize street vendors, but that has not been of much help. The trade continues. Unregistered ice makers are still not bound by standards of water they use to make ice. There are just three registered plants for edible ice in Goa. The total ice used by roadside ice-cream vendors across the state does not tally the quantity lifted by them as shown on the books of the three registered plants. There are not just street ice-cream vendors; even roadside carts selling sugarcane juice use block ice that is not manufactured in the three registered and FDA-regulated plants. If you want the FDA to tell you why commoners are compelled to take unsafe ice products when they have a full team of inspectors, their answer is they do not have enough of them. They have staff shortage. So inspection is random and irregular.
It is not just roadside vendors using ice, there are other street stalls, kiosks or carts that are doing good business selling food products at the cost of our health: chaat, bhelpuri, panipuri samosas, pakodas and chowmein and rolls and what not. Maggi could be banned but not the unhygienic street food that could give viral and bacterial infections. Inspection and regulation of street vendors are supposed to be strictly enforced by the FDA under the Food Safety Act. Food inspectors must inspect if the vendors are licensed and adhering to norms. They are not doing their job properly. Roadside vendors can sell only readymade food items and are not permitted to prepare food. Many vendors are openly violating this rule. We now know the water used to make ice for ice-cream sold by street vendors is not safe. But what about the water used by the street food vendors? They wash dishes, spoons and forks in a single bucket of water. The FDA has a responsibility to eliminate the risks to people’s health unsafe water and food pose, whatever it takes.