The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Tuesday raised concerns on food hygiene on trains and asked the Indian Railways to redesign coaches so that food served on trains are not stacked next to the lavatories.

“If you look at your catering services function on board, first thing that happens is that the food items are stacked next to the toilets,” FSSAI chief Ashish Bahuguna said at a Round Table Conference on improving the Quality of Catering Services organised by the Indian Railways.

“That puts off everybody. What happens after that is worse. When people carry their own food, there is no place for disposal. So hygiene and sanitation is something that has to be looked at seriously,” he said. The regulator has also drawn up a blueprint to spread food hygiene awareness and train railway catering officials on food safety

He added that re-engineering of coaches has to be done on the longer run as passengers are “hesitant to approach the wash basins” on trains due to poor hygiene conditions. Mr. Bahugana said providing safe drinking water on trains is another major issue and water dispensing machines may be installed on board. The FSSAI chief also said that instead of offering a bouquet of food items, the Railways should focus on providing limited but quality food to passengers.

 It has formulated a ‘Safe Food on Track’ programme for training supervisors of catering units at railway stations, food vendors and on board catering units on food safety. This proposal was discussed in a meeting of FSSAI officials with the Indian Railways on Monday, an FSSAI official told The Hindu.

“The FSSAI has proposed that a pool of master trainers be selected out of food safety officers and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) officials. These officials will be trained at Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and other places,” the official said.

The FSSAI further suggested a host of steps to create awareness related to food safety at railway stations and on trains. These include printing of food safety tips on food tray covers to onboard passengers, display of food safety tips in railway coaches and the use of food safety display boards at various food establishments at the railway stations.

“Hygiene is a problem and we are tackling those issues. We have five-six people involved with on-board housekeeping in Mail Express trains. Sometimes passengers create unhygienic conditions by keeping their food trays below their seats and later on, the staff is unable to keep the coaches in necessary ways,” Sanjiv Garg, Additional Member (Tourism and Catering), Indian Railways said.