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Kalpetta: At a time when Kerala is witnessing back to back food poising cases, the food safety department in the state is running short of resources to manage the crisis.
There are 80,000 establishments in the food sector of the state which operates with license. The number of establishments with registration is around 3 lakhs. Apart from this, there are establishments that either operate without licenses or has not renewed the required licences. Notably, it is the food safety which is entrusted with the task of examination, sample collection, ensuring hygiene and safety and regulation of these establishment. However, the department is ill-equipped to handle all this under a single roof.
The food safety department do not have enough staff to deal with the scale of entities in the state. Most posts in the department are short-staffed.
Food safety officer post is something foundational to the department. In each constituency at least one such officer should function. Similarly, special officers should be there in the main offices of the department. Apart from this there are other posts too.
However, the data shows the appointments are not carried out in proper manner. The total number of sanctioned food safety officer posts is 160. Among them, 39 remain vacant. Assistant commissioner (district chief) posts are 12, while two of them remain vacant. There are two deputy commissioner posts and one of the them remain vacant. While intelligence squad under the deputy commissioner also remain inoperative.
The numbers of clerical and office staff are less. The sanctioned posts in each independent circle office are as follows: clerk-1; peon-1. The sanctioned posts in each district office are as follows: clerk-2; typist-1; peon-1. However, in most places they are not filled in proper manner. Sometimes due to shortage, individuals from circle offices will work at district offices. In effect, circle offices remain closed for the functioning of district office.
Another important issue is that it does not have enough vehicles. More often the department relay on vehicles that are taken in contract. Since last 20 years, it has not purchased a vehicle on its own. Wayanad has three circle offices, but only one vehicle is available. While Kozhikode has 12 circle offices and only three vehicles are available. The lack of vehicles in turn affects inspection.
Similarly, lab facilities meant for testing are not up to the mark. Bacteria testing cannot be done. It will take days to get results of the samples collected.