Street food to soon become more hygienic

Kolkata: Tasty and easily available cheap street food offering a wide range of cuisine will no more be unhygienic as a team of experts are preparing a new model for roadside food vendors in the city.

Mobilising a group of 60 women street food vendors from different parts of Kolkata, two alumni of the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) have taken up a six-month project to promote environmentally conscious street food business.

Sharmistha Banerjee, head of the department of business management in Calcutta University, and social development specialist Diti Mukherjee, said efforts are being made to change the way vendors prepare, serve and store food.

"Safe and hygienically-prepared food made using environmentally sustainable methods can attract more customers and increase their business," Banerjee told PTI.

The team is working with vendors in Gariahat, Sealdah, College Square and Dalhousie Square whose businesses are adversely affecting the environment.

"It is a part of our social support system as their food is cheap, affordable and very easily accessible. But the problem is with the hygiene, sanitation and safety," said Indira Chakravarty, chief adviser, (water and sanitation support organisation) of the state department of public health engineering.

Major reasons leading to microbial contamination are the

place of preparation of food, utensils used for cooking and serving, raw materials including water, inadequate solid waste management system and the personal hygiene of vendors.

It is estimated that there are around 120,000 vendors in Kolkata selling over 200 varieties of food with the most popular ones being 'puchka', rolls, 'idli-dosa', 'biryani' and 'roti-sabzi' stalls.

With help from volunteers, the team of experts are guiding vendors in developing a flow chart of their business chain, mapping these activities, and eventually formulating a work-plan to adopt more environmentally conscious practises.

"Water is the major source of contamination of street food. Water gets contaminated in storage. So we are imparting simple practices which won't cost much, but will improve the safety aspects. There is also an issue with the way they clean the dishes," said Diti Mukherjee, who is also the CEO of the Association for Social & Environmental Development.

Vendors are also being asked to clean up their garbage and make use of left over by-products.

"If there is dirt and garbage around the stalls, there is a risk of food contamination," she said adding that the methods being advocated are indigenous and inexpensive.

In 2012, the Bureau of Indian Standards had released guidelines for street food vendors on food safety requirements.

The national urban policy on street vendors advocates vending area cleanliness, waste disposal and public toilets for vendors.

Sharmila Naskar, a vendor in Gariahat, rues that a municipal cleaner has to be paid for cleaning up garbage. 

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