Aug 23, 2008

India - Beware of the takeaway food joints

Takeaway joints are a huge hit. But a peek into their kitchens throws up some unpalatable truths.The next time you think of skipping the cooking and ordering from the neighbourhood takeaway instead, think again. They may be cheap and save on time and energy , but with most operating without valid licences, the hygiene standards at these eateries leave a lot to be desired. And the story is the same across Delhi. While the city boasts more than 1,500 takeaway joints, barely 60 of them have health licences issued by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.When Times City looked into some of the kitchens, the look was that of a space which has not been cleaned for days. In many of them, the trash cans were kept right next to the cooking utensils, the vegetables and meat left uncovered on dirty slabs, flies and other insects swarming on them

The cooks wore neither gloves nor headgear and didn't bother to wash their hands even when they got dirty. Shortage of water often meant many utensils being washed in water already filthy with repeated use. With no proper ventilation or fire extinguisher in place, it would be safe to say the joints are dangerous in more ways than one. Most of the takeways function from small non-descript corners as customers place their orders on phone instead of actually coming to pick up the food. Said an MCD official: '' The licences of takeaways are issued at the zonal level . The basic requirement to open a takeaway is that the person opening it should have ownership proof and it should be functioning from a commercial area. No unauthorised construction should be carried out and the minimum size of the takeaway joint should be 100 sq ft, with no sitting place.''

Running water , proper ventilation, a clean kitchen, all cooking and storage vessels kept covered to prevent contamination, food items kept as far away from waste matter as possible, walls and ceilings which are whitewashed every six months and a high standard of personal hygiene maintained by workers at all times were the other "mandatory " requirements. However , in reality, not even 5% of these guidelines laid down in the DMC Act under Section 417/421 are met by most takeaway joints. While MCD claims that raids are conducted on a weekly basis and challans are issued against the offenders , this hardly seems to be the case on the ground. In Karol Bagh zone, only three licences have been issued to takeaways , four or five have been issued in South, Central and Rohini zones and only one has been issued in City zone.

Most takeaway joints have opened in the last four years, thanks to the increased demand to order in. With most couples working, it is more convenient and cheaper to order food from these joints than to cook at home. The quantity is decent and the range - from Chinese to Mughlai - wide, and it comes for as little as Rs 100 to Rs 150. At a takeaway at Old Rajinder Nagar that opened two years ago, an employee claimed that the outlets didn't need a licence to function. The dustbin at the entrance of this joint was kept next to the grill and the kitchen was filthy from within. The owner of a Chinese takeaway at Old Rajinder Nagar, Indu Nagpal said: '' Licences are not being issued by MCD. We have been running this joint for the last four years and get atleast 50-60 orders per day over the weekend .'' The problem is that the MCD only recently worked out a policy to issue health licences to takeaway joints on the 2,183 notified commercial and mixed land use stretches. The rest of the takeaways owners claim that getting a licence is not easy and involves too many complications for them to get into.

In Kailash Colony, a takeaway that has progressed into a fullfledged restaurant still lacks basic cleanliness in the kitchen area. The kitchen functions from a small place, without proper ventilation. In CR Park, a well known takeaway might be popular, but the kitchen is a small shed. Said one of the owners: '' We had a restaurant earlier which was shut during the sealing drive. Now we only take orders and deliver, though we are planning to shift from here.'' The standard of hygiene was no better at another takeaway at C R Park where Times City found the cooks cutting onions on a dirty plate on the floor. East Delhi also did not fare any better. Small takeaways on Narwana Road next to Mother Dairy seemed to function in the same way. Dirty, oil stained walls, cobwebs dotting the roof and unhygienic workers were the hallmarks of almost all of them

There are over 1,500 takeaways in the city but MCD has issued health licences to only around 60 of them Around 96% of them are functioning illegally in the city. The MCD issued one licence each in Najafgarh and City zones, four in Karol Bagh Zone and four to five in Central, South and Rohini zones The licences of takeaways are issued at the zonal level. The basic requirement to open a takeaway is that the person opening it should have ownership proof and it should be functioning in a commercial area No unauthorised construction should be carried out and the minimum size of the takeaway joint should be 100 sq ft with no sitting provision.A takeaway joint should have running water, proper ventilation. Kitchen should be kept clean and a high standard of personal hygiene shall be maintained by workers at all times, besides other such requirements. However, not even 5% of these guidelines laid down in DMC Act under Section 417/421 are met by most takeaway joints. Most of the takeaway joints have filthy kitchens and bad working conditions


Anonymous said...

That is scary and I guess the same would be true for Mumbai. Mumbai and Delhi are the food capitals of India and so would be alike in many ways.

Thanks for the informative article.

I look forward to more articles and would be delighted if you could write on

Anonymous said...

i owned a take away food joint here in Delhi... MCD ppl come and take money from us... i tried to apply it n number of times... but it get rejected the guy that come for water sample ask directly for rs 5000 to get it approved and so every other fella... the corruption is hiting on us... not the 96% doesnt want it to get licenced and most of us want to have a licence too... but its the govt employee.. whos extra income will be killed if we all will get licence... and secondly if we dont bribe them they threaten us to seal the joint... we have families to take care.. no body think about us.. just writing that we all are criminals... if we run it that means they are letting us run it too.

Unknown said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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