Ensure safety

Street food is gaining more popularity, as urbanisation is gaining speed, and receiving more regulatory attention in the country.

There has always been a strong tradition of street food and its patronage in the country. According to some estimates, 80 per cent of the population access street food. It has spread from cities to small towns, with life style changes and faster and more efficient ways of preparation of food giving it an extra push. While traditional food has maintained  its hold on the palate there is also greater diversity on offer, and an integration of tastes and habits is taking place across the country. This has also brought in its wake concerns and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has said that it plans to study the state of street food in terms of quality, environmental issues and other factors.
A survey made by the health ministry in 16 cities has found that 90 per cent of the street food is unsafe for consumption. An FSSAI study in Kolkota found that the food is cheap and gives nutritional value in terms of calories but hygienic standards are very unsatisfactory. The quality of water used, the manner of cooking, display and handling of food and waste disposal are all problem areas. The FSSAI is planning to make an intensive study of street food in Lucknow and Varanasi after the pilot study in Kolkota. It also has a city-wise action plan to make street food safer and better and to select streets in eight cities to be developed as model street food zones. The food safety and standards law mandates licencing vendors who number about one crore.

The numbers show how important the street food business is to millions of families. The state of its health is also important for many more millions of people who like to eat standing, half sitting or even walking, enjoying food made in the simplest of ways. It is a place where public health, personal tastes and livelihood needs meet, traditions of taste are maintained and refined, varieties  are preserved and new entries are encouraged. As a recent consultation on street food pointed out, its potential for employment, food and health security and tourism is  huge. Improving its standards is a big challenge but the effort has to be made.

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