The Union Health Ministry, in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, has written to the states and Union Territories to develop 100 food streets in 100 districts across the country.
The initiative is being taken up as a pilot project to create an example for other such streets to come up across the country to ensure safe and hygienic food practices.
The project aims to encourage safe and healthy practices among food businesses and community members, thus reducing foodborne illnesses and improving overall health outcomes, the Union Health Ministry said in a statement.
In a letter to the states, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Manoj Joshi highlighted that "easy access to safe and hygienic food is vital for the good health of citizens".
"Safe food practices not only promote the 'eat right campaign' and food safety but will improve hygiene credibility of local food businesses, boost local employment, tourism and, in turn, the economy. It also leads to a cleaner and greener environment," the letters stated.
Street foods have traditionally been an integral part of Indian society and are present all across the country. They represent the rich local tradition of cuisine, the statement said.
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These not only provide a daily diet at affordable prices to millions but also direct employment to a large number of people while supporting the tourism industry, it added.
However, it noted that safety and hygiene remain a matter of concern at street food outlets and hubs.
With rapid urbanisation, while these hubs have led to easy access to food, it has aggravated food contamination and associated health issues due to unhygienic and unsafe practices.
This initiative will be implemented through the National Health Mission in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will lend technical support, the statement said.
Financial assistance to the states and Union Territories in the form of Rs 1 crore per food street or district will be provided to fill the critical gaps, it added.
The assistance will be provided under the National Health Mission in the 60:40 or 90:10 ratio on the condition that standard branding of these food streets will be done following FSSAI guidelines.
Municipal corporations, development authorities and district collectors at the state level will take major initiatives to ensure convergence in terms of financial resources and physical infrastructure.
Various other initiatives such as training of food handlers and independent third-party audits have been taken to enhance safety standards.
Schemes such as Support to Urban Street Vendors, a component of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs' Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Urban Livelihoods Mission, have also been taken up.
In addition, the states and Union Territories can also conduct training programmes for street vendors to orient them on food safety, hygiene maintenance and waste disposal.
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