CHENNAI: Are you certain that the mutton that you had at your favourite biryani last night was not spoilt? Though there’s no way to tell when you’re eating, the afterburn will certainly keep you appraised. Even as the Corporation’s Food Safety Wing cracked down on four tonnes of rotten meat that arrived from Andhra yesterday, concerns over how smaller hotels and fast food places are handling their meat have risen all over again.
According to several meat merchants, the only places that have modern cold storage facilities are star hotels that require stock of every variety of meat on their menu. In most cases, these hotels draw up agreements with suppliers for the whole year and procure their meat in bulk quantities. Anwar Basha Qureshi, general secretary, Chennai Mutton Merchant’s Association says that these hotels buy 100 to 500 kilograms of mutton to store in freezers, M Manavalan, Chennai Poultry Wholesalers’ Association, says that processed chicken is even stored for up to six months in these facilities — something that is impossible for small eateries that manage with a stuffed fridge.
Dr V Pasupathy, Food Safety Scientist and advisor to hotels, states that temperature is very important from the time of procurement and during storage. Any meat should not be kept at temperatures over -18 degrees to -20 degrees. “The immediate issue that society has to address is to ensure that these facilities are inspected and well within the standards set by the government. But the improper cleaning of seafood and allergies from items like shellfish and crustaceans could also impede health after consumption,” says Dr Pasupathy.
Since meat is a great carrier of disease, Dr Pasupathy suggests that declared safe zones for purchasing meat must be made. “There is no point in blocking business, but business has to be empowered by awareness,” he says.
One of the solutions could be the one that has been languishing in cold storage for a while now — better slaughterhouses and cold storages facilities, according to meat suppliers.
In a city which consumes two to four tonnes of mutton per day and sees an influx of 2,000 goats arriving from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, three slaughterhouses are simply not enough. The Perambur slaughterhouse is not the best in terms of hygiene and the ones in Villivakkam and Saidapet cannot accommodate even 200 goats.
“About 10 lorries carrying 200 to 300 live goats each arrive in the city every day. A minimum of eight slaughterhouses are required to run things so that quality and hygiene are not compromised,” says Qureshi.