Mumbai: Safety of street food sold across the country has been a matter of major concern for the government and soon new standards will be implemented to safeguard public health, said Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Professor K.V. Thomas.

“Street food is prepared and sold under unhygienic conditions with limited access to clean water, sanitary services or garbage disposal facilities,” said the minister while addressing a national seminar on Food Safety—Role of Standards organised by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in the city.

Until now, food vendors have had a free run, doing business at any place of their choice without a care for hygiene, sanitation or quality of raw material. More importantly, a majority of working class in big cities and towns was dependent on street food as it was less costly compared to hotels and restaurants. And there are no guidelines for the manner in which they cook vegetarian or non-vegetarian food or even simple beverages like tea or coffee. But the minister said the BIS had now finalised a set of guidelines on basic requirements for street food vendors. The guidelines will instruct vendors on the kind of water, milk, tea or coffee powder and other food items to be used. He expressed the hope that implementation of these standards will safeguard public health and improve safety standards.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Maharashtra K. Sankaranarayanan, earlier called for strict vigilance by organisations like the Food and Drugs Administration and BIS in detecting food adulteration and in observing standardised norms across India where suppliers were resorting to shortcuts and adulteration in food products due to the growing demand.

The governor pointed out to the latest findings on testing of milk samples from across the country that showed detergent, fat, urea and water were present in over 68 per cent of the samples. He said fruits and vegetables were also found to contain harmful chemicals and even pulses, flour, spices and edible oil were adulterated.

Calling for the need for consumer education to prevent food-borne illnesses, he said, “If the consumers are quality-conscious, quantity-conscious and safety-conscious, they can help the cause of organisations like the BIS to maintain safety of food products and help bring the adulterators to justice.”