Kochi: The special ‘Operation Hot Water’ drive launched by the Ernakulam district panchayat and the health department against eateries and other food outlets has angered the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA) which feels they are overstepping their duties.
Noting that with the enforcement of the Food Safety Act, the role of civic authorities has been restricted to checking sanitary and hygienic conditions of eateries, KHRA state general secretary , Jose Mohan warned the association would strongly protest the closure of hotels by the civic authorities and the health department.
"They have no legal right to inspect the quality of food served take samples or seize stale food. They can only check the general hygiene of eateries. Going by the provisions of the Food Safety Act, only a qualified food analyst can collect food samples," he said.
District panchayat president Eldhose Kunnappally , however justified the drive, saying that Operation Hot Water was essential to curb the possible outbreak of water-borne diseases. "Though the Food Safety Authority alone has the right to check the quality of food served, civic bodies can inspect the sanitation in eateries.
We planned the drive after water-borne diseases were reported from Pindimana and Pallarimangalam panchayats. Commercial ice used in the welcome drink served during a function in these areas had led to several cases of typhoid," he added, regretting that many eateries that did not care for hygiene were affecting the health of the people who frequented them.
" During the raid we found many hotels and bars e functioning in very poor hygiene conditions," he said. District food safety officer, Ajith Kumar, when contacted by Deccan Chronicle, said only the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had the right to cancel licences of eateries, and even so it acted with caution in the matter.
"Although the authority has the right to serve closure notice, such an extreme step is taken only in rare situations when a hotel is causing serious public health problems. Usually, we serve notices to eateries asking them to rectify things," he explained.