Thiruvananthapuram, January 23, (BPNS)
Kerala has made health cards mandatory for employees working in food processing units. The decision has come against the backdrop of a spat of food poisoning cases including some deaths. According to health minister Veena George, those units which were closed down over issues like being unhygienic will have to register for hygiene rating within a month from its opening.
“All food processing units will have to secure the hygiene rating. Also, the employees of those units which were closed down by the officials during their inspection will now have to undergo training in food safety (FOSTAC). This will have to be completed within two weeks,” said Veena.
Stressing the need for a health card, the minister said that the possibility of contracting viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms from those who handle food is always high.
“That’s why it is important to certify that those who handle food is not having any contagious diseases or other ailments. The health card will help to assure the same,” added the minister.
Meanwhile, the minister warned that those units having employees without health cards will be asked to shut down. She also added that those who gave fake certificates will also be dealt with strongly.
For a health card, an employee will have to present before a registered medical examiner. There the examiner will check whether an employee has any infectious or communicable diseases. For that physical examination followed by an eye test, skin examination, compliance with the schedule of the vaccine against an enteric group of diseases, and any test required to confirm any communicable or infectious disease will be carried out.
It was on the other day that the government announced the constitution of a special task force (intelligence) headed by an officer in the rank of deputy commissioner of food safety to investigate food poisoning incidents and its follow-up, check adulteration, identify those units that operate without a license and others. The task force will directly report to the State Food Safety Commissioner.
Earlier, the division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, had directed the state health secretary to file a detailed report regarding numerous food poisoning incidents that occurred in the state and the steps taken against the same.
The bench was hearing a suo motu case that was initiated based on news reports regarding the death of a 16-year-old girl at Kasargod on May 2, 2022, due to food poisoning. Though the case was disposed of on June 27, 2022, the court decided to revive it in the wake of recent food poisoning incidents.
The court is expected to consider the matter again on February 2.