Something is cooking at Chathiram Bus Stand area in Tiruchi

The Department of Food Safety has identified Chathiram Bus Stand and its peripheries in the city to promote a street food hub with emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene.

According to a rough estimate, there are about 600 street food vendors and roadside food stalls in the city. While a section of them make and sell hot food on wheels (pushcarts) at various locations, many others function in busy areas on public spaces with foldable and makeshift benches and chairs. They mainly operate in the evenings up to 11 p.m.

According to a long-time resident, the city’s first roadside food stall came up on Theradi Street on Big Bazaar Street about 50 years ago. Since it received good patronage, the concept gradually spread its wings in other parts of the city. The stalls have mushroomed in the recent past with unemployed youth starting their own business.

Though they offer food, mainly light items, at cheap rates, there is serious concern over the unhygienic method of preparation, serving and distribution. There are apprehensions that several street food traders prefer to use adulterated oil and recycled oil bought from big hotels.

In order to address the grievances of customers and to improve the quality of food being sold by street vendors, the Department of Food Safety has proposed to implement clean street food hub project on a pilot basis at Chathiram Bus Stand area.

Chathiram Bus Stand has been chosen to implement the project as it has a number of roadside and pavement food sellers, R. Rameshbabu, Designated Officer, Food Safety and Drug Administration, Tiruchi, told The Hindu.

They wild be clustered into a group. Bringing behavioural changes among workers and cooks, enhancing personal hygiene of cooks and suppliers, ensuring preparation of food in a clean and hygienic environment, providing a clean dining experience, standard mechanism to dispose of food waste and leftovers and using quality ingredients to prepare food are among the components of the project, he said.

As a first step, an awareness programme on clean food preparation in street food stalls and businesses has been given to the vendors. The selected vendors, who are part of the Chathiram Bus Stand clusters, will be called again for intensive training.

They will be asked to strictly enforce the standard requisites of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) right from wearing apron and hair caps to proper waste disposal. They will also be asked to do business only at hygienic places.

Dr. Rameshbabu says it might mean additional investments by vendors to create the infrastructure. Hence, he is in talks with some companies to get sponsorship for the project under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund.

Once the vendors are found to be following all hygienic and sanitary parameters, steps will be taken to get an FSSAI certificate for the cluster.

“The aim is to make Tiruchi a model in clean street food sale. The project will be implemented within two months,” he said.

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