CHENNAI: In a blatant violation of food safety norms, all the canteens maintained by state-owned Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) were found operating without food safety licenses and registration certificates from the concerned authorities. These canteens which primarily caters to nearly 24,300 MTC employees including drivers and conductors came under the scanner of the state food safety department after reports emerged of poor quality food being served.
K Anbazhgan, an MTC employee who was working in Chrompet bus depot took up the issue with higher authorities in the work floor and following a refusal to accept the complaint by the latter, he approached the food safety wing. In his complaint dated May 24, Anbazhgan mentioned that many MTC employees fell sick after consuming food from the depot canteens of late and some were unable to report to duty as they were frequently hospitalised for diarrhoea and other related ailments.
Responding to this, seven different teams headed by R Kathiravan, designated officer, food safety department conducted an inspection all the 20 canteens across the capital city on June 19. “It was found that all the canteens, maintained by MTC in their bus depots, were functioning without obtaining food safety licences and registration certificates,” Kathiravan said in his reply to the complainant on June 29.
According to Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, food businesses which have an annual turnover of less than Rs.12 lakh should register with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and those above this ceiling should get a licence from the same autonomous body functioning under the Union Health Ministry.
Post-inspection, Tamil Nadu food safety authorities had written to managing director of MTC pointing out various deficiencies in the manner in which food is prepared and served in the said canteens. Nine major concerns were highlighted including unhygienic kitchens, unsafe drinking water, poor personal hygienic of cooks and have advised MTC authorities not to use rotten vegetables.
The complainant, Anbazhgan said that alongside these violations, MTC authorities are culpable of not serving 600 g of rice as per their contractual terms and engaged in verbal abuse when employees raised the matter.
“Despite not possessing licenses to operate, how could MTC let out contracts who were minting money?” posed Anbazhgan, adding that this shows the lack of transparency in the accounts. Responding to this, a MTC official said that they have instructed all the contractors in Chennai to apply for licenses and rectify the deficiencies.
Notably, MTC canteen at Aynavaram found itself in a controversy last month after allegations of ‘plastic’ rice was being served to employees surfaced.