Increasing scandals in Guwahati food joints - Are you visiting these places again?
GUWAHATI: City food trotters are jittery after cases of spurious food being served by eateries here have started becoming more frequent.
One of the most recent cases was that of last week when a Jonali-based family restaurant, “Three Guys” had allegedly served chicken containing worms to its customers. This snowballed to filing of a complaint in the Geetanagar Police Station and a cross complaint by the restaurant owners against the customer in the same police station.
This brings back recent memories of the Kareem’s restaurant, still afresh from last month, when a customer filed a complaint in the Dispur police station alleging that they were served stale food, which was further cross complained by the restaurant authorities in the same police station.
Weeks earlier, Street-Za, a popular roadside food truck parked at Chandmari, was alleged to be serving food that caused poisoning to its customers.
“I am an ardent foodie. I go around the city to try new foods and check what is best at which joint. But, after these incidents, I am a bit apprehensive about eating outside now,” Partha Prawal Goswami, a professional in a private firm here, said.
He, however, said that he had tried the food in all the three restaurants in question and had no complaints about the food served to him.
Sayantani Dev, a research fellow in Gauhati University, also a food lover, said, “After these incidents, no matter where the legal battle ends, I am not going to those places ever again. There’s no point spending money and then, for somebody else’s negligence, fall sick. But, one can never be sure about these things. The city eateries need to be transparent about how their foods are prepared and allow the customers to check their kitchens.”
The bone of contention in the ‘worm in chicken’ incident
Authorities of the “Three Guys” restaurant had, on August 9, taken to the social media platforms asking people not to spread rumours and wait until the report from the Food Safety Authority of India comes.
This otherwise popular FSAI certified joint in the city, had recently made headlines after a customer shared a video in which they confronted the waiters in the shop about worms that they found in the chicken. They had ordered a hot garlic chicken, one of the favourite items on the restaurant’s menu.
Based on their complaint, officials of FSAI had arrived and taken away samples of the food item in question.
Talking to G Plus, Manindre Kalsi, owner of the restaurant said, “We would ask the people to wait till the reports of FSAI come. After that, we will ourselves reach out to the media and let them know whatever the report reveals. Until then, we request people to refrain from any sort of speculations and defaming the restaurant’s name on the basis of the same.”
The restaurant has also filed a defamation case against the customers.
“We wouldn’t want to pursue the case. But we don’t want any sort of unsolicited bad name to come to the organisation,” Kalsi said.
The restaurant has been asked to shut down for a week by the minister of state for health & family welfare, government of Assam, Pijush Hazarika.
The restaurant will open next Wednesday (August 15) and the reports from the FSAI will come after two weeks.
Ministry fails to maintain food quality despite numerous raids
After Pijush Hazarika, the Jagiroad legislator who had recently taken charge as minister of state for health & family welfare, the city saw him leading numerous raids conducted at different eateries.
According to people in the food industry, the sporadic raids by the minister might have increased, but the follow up of the same and checks thereafter are not being conducted regularly.
“There is no regular check going on in the food joints now. Earlier, after every two months, there used to checking by the FSAI officials. Also, the GMC used to check the hygiene of the restaurants. Now, after the minister started conducting raids, the regular checks have decreased,” said the owner of a restaurant at Chandmari under condition of anonymity.
This might just be the case, because the minister had constituted a team comprising officials of the health & family welfare department, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the State Public Health Laboratory (SPHL) to conduct surprise visits to various hotels, milk vans, sweet shops and factories, that left the departments in dearth of manpower to conduct the regular checks.
An employee of the FSSAI, under condition of anonymity said, “This being a central government office does not have much manpower. The team constituted by the minister has taken most of our food inspectors. Now, they are conducting sporadic raids throughout the city, collecting samples and following up on those cases only, while the regular checks have taken a beating for that. Thanks to the minister, now several restaurants are on their toes regarding the food they serve, but at the same time, several are trying their luck and continue to be lax in maintaining the standards of the food they were supposed to.”
Enforcement officials of the Commissionerate of Food Safety recently ordered three hotels and restaurants of Guwahati to keep their shutters down for three consecutive days during a food safety drive conducted in Paltan Bazar area of the city. The three hotels and restaurants - Raja Hotel & Restaurant, Kamakhya Hotel and Green View Hotel - were found not adhering to hygiene norms and were asked to keep their kitchens clean. Earlier, five city-based sweet shops were also issued similar notices.
Speaking to G Plus, to revamp the food industry in the city, Hazarika had said, “There are certain problems with food sample collection since we cannot conduct the test on the spot and it generally takes around 15 days to get results from the laboratory. Necessary steps are being taken by the department to curb the problem of unsafe food and the Assam government has procured a testing kit from Germany that will be able to test food samples on the spot. It is expected to be delivered in a week.”