Food Poisoning Outbreak in Maharashtra Raises Concerns About FSSAI’s BHOG Initiative

Following reports of a food poisoning incident at a religious event in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district, where around 200 people fell ill after consuming prasad, attention has once again turned to food safety in such gatherings and the perceived shortcomings of FSSAI’s BHOG (Blissful Hygienic Offering to God) initiative.

Despite the existence of the BHOG program, designed to ensure food safety during religious events, challenges persist in overseeing large gatherings in India. The BHOG initiative primarily targets larger businesses, leaving many smaller and local caterers without adequate oversight. Issues such as limited manpower and infrastructure hinder effective enforcement, particularly in rural areas where these events often take place. Food safety experts emphasize the urgent need for more stringent regulations and enforcement, especially during significant gatherings. The recent incident in Buldhana underscores the necessity for robust food safety measures, prompting experts to call for stricter regulations and enforcement to ensure hygiene during food preparation at

religious events.

Mr. Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs, highlights the vulnerability caused by insufficient infrastructure, fragmented supply chains, and poor hygiene practices. He suggests that addressing these issues requires more than just laws and calls for investment in laboratory accessibility, empowering local authorities, and fostering a culture of safety throughout the food chain.

He proposes that event organizers play a crucial role in ensuring food safety at large gatherings. He recommends partnering with reputable, licensed caterers, collaborating with FSSAI and health authorities, and providing food safety training for staff. Clear protocols for hygiene, temperature control, labeling, and waste handling, along with regular inspections and consumer empowerment, are essential steps. He also emphasizes the importance of proper infrastructure for handwashing and utensils, coupled with promoting consumer awareness through signage, announcements, and educational materials.