With eateries mushrooming here, there and everywhere, the civic body has decided to serve a warning to rude food stops.
Starting second week of April, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will embark on a Serve Safe Food campaign to ensure proper hygiene standards in eateries.
“Our food inspectors will pay surprise visits at eateries to check the state of cleanliness and also collect food samples,” mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya told Metro.
The mayor, mayoral council member (health) Subodh Dey and municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay finalised the campaign blueprint last week.
“We do not want the city to be treated as a free zone, where anyone and everyone can start an eatery from a dingy room or a garage,” added the mayor.
According to data available with the civic body, the eatery count in the city has grown by “around 400 per cent” in the past decade, often compromising quality and hygiene standards.
During the surprise raids — to be kicked off from “upmarket eateries and bars” — the food inspectors and officials from the civic health department will carry a checklist .
“We will first go for the big ones, as they charge a premium. We will give them time to comply with the norms, failing which we will cancel their food licence,” said Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay, chief municipal health officer.
Renewal of food licence — a must along with the trade licence for eateries — will also be linked to performance on the cleanliness and hygiene front. Food inspectors will submit quarterly reports to the municipal commissioner on compliance of norms by the eateries.
“We are making the process of issuing and renewing of food licences more stringent by involving the civic health department,” said mayor Bhattacharyya.
According to him, the Trinamul Congress-BJP board had taken away the responsibility from the health department and made food licences easily available.
But former mayor Subrata Mukherjee defended that move: “Some unscrupulous civic health department officials were extorting money in the name of surveillance, so I changed the procedure.”
Promising cleaner kitchens across the city, the civic body is reinventing the old process of surprise kitchen visits, monitoring of hygiene conditions and regular collection of food samples for laboratory tests.
The civic body is also modernising its food laboratory with a central grant and preparing food analysts and inspectors for its Serve Safe Food campaign.
“We will be happy to comply with the CMC guidelines… But we hope it doesn’t become a mechanism to extort money from restaurants,” said the promoter of a popular central Calcutta food stop.