Kolkata street food hygiene still a concern, water biggest problem | Kolkata News – Times of India


KOLKATA: Providing food vendors the minimum basic infrastructure to conduct the trade hygienically and bringing them under the ambit of a food safety certification can not only lead to a quantum change in Kolkata’s street food safety standards but also positively impact the health of a few lakh people who have street food at least five times a week.

This is the inference drawn from a field study on Kolkata’s street food carried out a year ago by researchers from three universities — Binghamton, Monash and Bocconi. Altogether, 681 food vendors from Ultadanga, Dalhousie, Eden Gardens, Indian Museum, Beliaghata, Victoria Memorial, Park Circus, Rashbehari, Ballygunge and Behala, who had earlier attended training and follow-up sessions, in health and hygiene were included in the study.
The study revealed that despite being aware of the need for improving hygiene while conducting business and being trained on how to do so, very few practised what they had learnt. While this discovery was not new for it had already frustrated many non-govern-ment organisations that had conducted workshops over the years to change the behaviour of street food vendors only to see them never translating into practice, the study by researchers Sulagna Mookerjee, Denni Tommasi and Gianmarco Daniele revealed the reason behind their peculiar behaviour.
First, lack of basic infrastructure like clean water, proper food waste disposal and electricity in the places they conduct business hampers their ability to translate the learnings into action. Second, many vendors do not perceive any incentive to produce safer foods because the improved quality would be difficult to observe in practice, and hence they would not be rewarded by consumers.
Third, consumers in this sector may not have a sufficiently high demand for hygienic food. A study of 1,480 consumers between June and August 2019 revealed that while they value food safety and are willing to pay more for it, most are unable to distinguish contaminated food from one that is safe. Also, many have other considerations like variety on offer by a vendor.
“The findings implied that training is not sufficient to foster substantial changes in food safety, suggesting that information alone to vendors is not the key constraint in this sector. What is required is a more active role by local authorities, both in terms of providing easier access to infrastructure as well as imposing regulations to mandate safer practices. Bringing the vendors under some sort of food safety certification like Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) can lead to a faster adoption of hygienic practices as customers can then distinguish who is certified,” said Sudipta Moitra, the project coordinator of Gana Unnayan Parshad (GUP), the NGO that was the local implementing partner in the study.
While GUP, in partnership with NDITA and FSSAI, has conducted training and certification for 68 vendors in Salt Lake Sector V, it is set to take up another project funded by UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that will try to plug the infrastructure gaps by providing clean water and FSSAI certification to another target group next year.

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