Bitter aftertaste of eatery crackdown

Lately, Kerala has been witness to multiple incidents of food poisoning that have left all stakeholders puzzled.

Published: 03rd February 2023 01:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd February 2023 01:39 AM   |  A+A-

Food Poisoning

Image for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

Lately, Kerala has been witness to multiple incidents of food poisoning that have left all stakeholders puzzled. While there have been fatalities, the most recent case saw nearly 100 students of a government-run boarding school in Wayanad falling ill last week. Such incidents have raised questions about the precautions adopted to ensure food safety. At the heart of the controversy is food sourced from restaurants and fast-food joints. As back-to-back incidents cooked up a storm, officialdom stepped in to allay fears and set in motion a series of measures, including raids on eateries, in an apparent attempt at finding a quick fix. While we need a credible solution and constant vigil, the government must realise that knee-jerk reactions are also part of the problem.

We require a proactive regime to screen the raw materials and ingredients that finally end up on plates. There should be no discrimination in terms of vegetarian and non-vegetarian constituents. This is particularly important given that there has been an attempt to vilify certain ‘imported’ cuisines. This would require a fail-proof inspection regimen examining the building blocks and ingredients sourced locally and otherwise. However, such interventions should be far from disruptive. If people have the freedom to decide what they eat and where they eat, it is also the prerogative of sectors that provide the service, including restaurants and hotels, to have menus they believe will drive consumer engagement and boost their business, albeit with all the safeguards to ensure what they serve ticks the health and regulation boxes.

According to the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association, the industry has seen a 40% drop in business thanks to the recent goings-on. The hoteliers’ body believes the government’s response to the crisis is partly to blame. Another concern has been the multiple agencies involved, overlapping responsibilities, and the confusion engendered. There has to be clarity on who is tasked with what to impart a sense of confidence in the entire process. If tourism is about selling the experience, such incidents will only alter the perception of the state as a destination. It is not just the problem but the response to it that will determine the future stakes. And, for an industry struggling to emerge from the pandemic, it must receive all the help to get back on its feet.


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