Close on the heels of an order by the Food and Drugs Administration which makes it obligatory for vendors of local bread who move around on bicycles to register with the FDA as per the food safety norms comes the fiat from the FDA which mandates food-business operators whether roadside eateries, food carts/ vans or home-based businesses to register under the FSSAI laws. Fast food suppliers, tiffin suppliers and even Goa’s traditional bakers, including those using social media platforms to market their food products, have also been mandated to register. Just as in case of ‘pao’ which is a staple diet of the Goans, where efforts are being made to ensure that safe and wholesome food is made available to the consumers; it would appear that the government is equally concerned about the food safety standards of all edible products consumed by the public which in turn has the FDA training its guns on small food businesses for any violation. It is well known that the disruption of established restaurant business in the sector due to the pandemic has encouraged a new corps of ‘entrepreneurs’ willing to step into the void created. With home-made food, including snacks, becoming a big hit among Goan foodies, the ‘neo-enterprisers’ discovered a way to beat the COVID blues and help their families tide over the tough times. If these directives under the Food and Safety Standards Act, 2006, have been issued in the interest of public health, they are indeed commendable. If on the other hand it is the unease felt by the more established names in the restaurant industry over the popularity of the upstarts which has influenced the fiat from the FDA, it would be a gross injustice, being met out to those who are somehow managing to eke out a living as the coronavirus continues to play havoc with their lives. An attempt at earning a livelihood during these extremely challenging times should not be snubbed as it goes against the very essence of self-reliance that has been widely touted as the best way to overcome the unemployment woes during the pandemic. But of course the FDA is well within its rights in demanding safe food handling and stringent hygienic norms from these business operators as they would be dealing with food for public consumption.
PACHU MENON, MARGAO