When officials from the Health Department of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) descended on the locally famous Green Bawarchi restaurant in Mirjalguda in Secunderabad, they found enough reasons to impose penalty.
Officials found meat that was stored in unhygienic conditions for more than a week, while the ideal norm is one day storage.
Following the raid, officials have reportedly served them a notice, along with a penalty of Rs 10,000.
This is not the first incident revealing the grossly unhygienic conditions of eateries in the city, especially in the Secunderabad area.
In January, the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) sealed five outlets in a single day, with one of them even allegedly serving rotten fruit juice and cheese with fungus.
During a surprise raid on some reputed eateries in the Cantonment area, the sanitary wing officials of the SCB found that the customers were being served stale food.
This included Friends Corner at Marredpally, which was serving six different varieties of juices to customers, all allegedly using rotten fruits and Stop N Go, near AOC, which was serving a pre-prepared dish with rotten mutton.
In Best Bakery, the official found that the owner was preparing food in a temporary kitchen constructed on an open nala.
Punjab Kurries and Dosa Corner in Marredpally were also sealed for questionable hygiene standards.
There are several departments that deal with the issue of hygiene and sanitation of eateries.
The GHMC’s health department is one of those, mainly dealing with kitchen hygiene.
This involves things like flooring, painting, utensils being used, storage, personal hygiene of workers etc, according to Dr B Palavan Kumar, the GHMC’s Health Wing in-charge of Secunderabad, Malkajgiri and Begumpet.
Talking about hotel Taj Mahal in Secunderabad, which was fined last year, Kumar says that hygiene is a grave concern.
“Even when we visit posh five star and three star hotels, I have observed that they do not give a lot of importance to the personal hygiene of their workers. The workers’ nails are often not cut, and they work in a dirty atmosphere,” he says.
“Sometimes, even in the big hotels in Secunderabad, the flooring is damaged or water is stagnating,” he adds.
Meanwhile, organisations like the SCB and its sanitation wing, deal with the conditions of the kitchen and the food itself.
Speaking about the raids conducted last month, Devender, Superintendent of the SCB’s Sanitation Department, says, “In some kitchens, we saw rats, cockroaches and other insects. The floor was not proper or the roof was leaking. Even the storage system was unhygienic.”
There are three main things to consider, according to Devender — Vegetables, meat and dairy products.
“Vegetables are cheap and easy to dispose. Though there are exceptions, most eateries use fresh fruits and vegetables while cooking. However, dairy products in many cases, are either not stored properly, or are past the expiry date, which makes them unfit for consumption,” Devender adds.
Devender also states that a lot of biryani joints were found violating rules.
“Many times, biryani outlets are the main offenders. Meat in some hotels, which included the meat used for chicken biriyani and Mutton biryani was stale and old,” he says.
Referring to the case of Green Bawarchi, he says, “Ideally, they should buy it the same day and cook it. Even if it is one or two days old, we can give them a warning, as they may not have been able to clear the previous day’s stock.”
“However, when we checked the bills of the meat from slaughterhouses, we found that some were as old as one week or 10 days. In one earlier case, it was almost two weeks old,” he adds.
Devender also adds that some kitchens had bathrooms attached, meant for employees.
“It is a continuous process and we will always conduct raids and checking, to ensure that they don’t violate rules. As far as the consumer goes, you can always ask that you at least get a look at the kitchen. You can also demand to see a receipt of the slaughterhouse, if the meat smells stale or looks rotten,” Devender adds.
Often, officials levy a heavy penalty on the eateries, or in some cases, shut them down until they are willing to refurnish the premises.
Many traders and shop owners however, have cried foul, alleging that the officials were making it hard for them to do business.
Justifying the large fine, Kumar says, “We have to charge a heavy penalty, to create a sense of fear. Unlike a court, where even a small fine goes on record, our fines are paid and forgotten.”
“We also video record the entire raid, as evidence. We don’t seek to trouble the traders, we just want them to understand that they cannot violate the norms and get away with it by paying a small fine. That’s why a bigger penalty is advisable,” he adds.
“We are working for public safety, and if someone dies tomorrow, then who will be at fault? This is why we are always calling for stricter rules where food safety is concerned and not just some routine norm,” he concludes.
“When we shut them down, we do see some permanent change. Many eateries that we closed, have reopened, but after ensuring that all the rules are being followed,” says Devender.