Of food safety and street vendors
No doubt food poisoning is not endemic to Manipur and it can happen to anyone anywhere but the death of 35 year old youth from Thongju at RIMS on Wednesday (June 15) and subsequent hospitalisation of three of his family members due to suspected food poisoning allegedly after consuming luffa (sebot in Manipuri ) or mouldy fermented fish as suspected by the experts in Health Department has casted doubts on the availability of hygienic food in Imphal as diet plays an important role in keeping one healthy especially during summer. Indeed, the dubious samples have been collected and hopefully the Department concerned would verify the cause of the death but has the Government considers taking up any pre-empt measures so that public health is not compromised ? In almost every locality and bigger markets such as Khwairamband Keithel, one can see numerous roadside food and vegetable vendors putting up temporary shops and people thronging there to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for daily needs or to satiate their taste buds but when it comes to hygiene the standard is oft poor and the authorities concerned are seemingly turning blind eyes to this issue. People who frequent keithels and crowded places such as Thangal Keithel could easily see vendors selling their food items without any consideration on the safety of the consumers and there are many vendors who habitually do not cover their food items, exposing it to dust, flies and germs alike. The least a vendor can do is cover the food items. Shouldn’t the authorities here enforce certain norms which must compulsorily be followed by all vendors big or small in the larger interest of all and inspect establishments serving food items on a regular basis.
Majority of the people engaging in vending business in Manipur are not from decent economic and educated background and this must be taken with utmost seriousness by the State Government and its machinery and organise hygiene training for street vendors to teach them techniques of food storage and hygiene maintenance. Carrying out such training programmes periodically will go a long way in improving the hygiene standards. Notably, the East Khasi Hills district administration, as reported by Newmai News Network, has constituted an Animal Market Monitoring Committee to ensure that meat sellers or vendors do not display meat without covering to avoid contamination and health hazards and this is one good example of taking public health seriously and the same can be done in Manipur too by reaching out to associations of street vendors who run a parallel economy in Manipur as compromise on food safety can carry heavy consequences.