Ahead of Pongal on Monday, the Chennai Corporation began raids on outlets selling food on beaches across the city. This is part of a larger initiative to ensure safety on the beaches during the festive season, when many residents are expected to flock there.
Ten teams have been formed by the Corporation’s public health department to prevent sales of unhygienic food on Marina, Elliot’s and Palavakkam beaches.
All the food stalls on the beaches are illegal, but the civic body has been unable to regulate them, even after a directive from the Madras High Court.
A number of samples were collected from 536 food stalls on Monday, for informal testing of shelf life, rusted covers on soft drinks, ‘carcinogenic’ cooking oil, use of colouring agents, and quality. The growth of micro-organisms such as coliform, clostridium, yeast, E. Coli, salmonella and mould will also be tested.
The results of the tests will be used to assess the impact of the sales of such products on beaches.
“This is a preventive measure. More than 10 lakh people will gather on the beaches during the festival holidays. We also educated people on health and the safety of street food. Traders selling spurious food products were also warned,” said city health officer, P. Kuganantham.
“The dark oil repeatedly used for frying food items is highly carcinogenic. Water collected from the shallow pits of the Marina which is sold, is a health hazard. Visitors to the beach should avoid such products,” he added.
“Earlier, some vendors used to sell spurious products on the beaches. Now, members of the vendors’ association have decided to prevent such practices,” said Meen Umayaal, a vendor on Marina beach.
“Some officials created awareness about food safety recently. We now get regular customers only because we use good quality oil for cooking,” said Velu Mani, a vendor.
The food safety department is also planning to screen stalls selling unhygienic food products and will issue improvement notices to shops that function in unsanitary conditions.
“We found that a number of packed food products sold by stalls did not have a date of manufacturing. We intend to create awareness about this also,” said a Corporation official.
“People should be careful when they buy food on beaches. They can cause infections, diarrhoea or fever,” said a food analyst.
Emergency medical teams will also be stationed at various points to help visitors at beaches this week.