- FSSAI observed that eateries and vendors should exercise precautions.
- Children, pregnant mothers, the elderly and immunity-compromised people are more vulnerable to such infections.
- Agency has directed all state food commissioners to create a systematic campaign for generating awareness among all citizens.
Dangerous diseases are cashing in on your filthy banknotes and coins, the countrys apex food regulator has pointed out.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) has directed all state food commissioners to create a systematic campaign for generating awareness among all citizens to discourage the simultaneous handling of food and currency notes and coins.
The agency has also observed that eateries and vendors should exercise precautions while collecting cash and handing out food.
Handling of currency with unclean and soiled hands, use of saliva during counting and storage under unhygienic conditions leads to its contamination with harmful microorganisms, mentioned the FSSAIs advisory.
The agency has said cross-contamination from currency is a risk to human health, leading to many conditions such as food poisoning as well as skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.
Children, pregnant mothers, the elderly and immunity-compromised people are more vulnerable to such infections. Food vendors, particularly those selling their wares on the streets, often prepare and serve food and collect money from patrons with the same hand.
Currency notes and coins are widely circulated everyday by public and these are source of microbiological contamination. This we were examining for a long time, but we cannot punish anyone. Therefore, we have directed all the state food commissioners to launch a strong awareness campaign on hygienically handling of currency notes and coins and this we have to start at a very basic level, Pawan Agarwal, CEO of FSSAI, told Mail Today.
Ideally, handling of food and money should be physically separated. After handling currency, hands should be thoroughly washed before touching food and vice-versa.
Three scientific studies published in the Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences, International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences, and the International Journal of Advanced Research have highlighted that the presence of drugresistant pathogens on currency is the transmitter of a number of diseases in the community, including urinary and respiratory tract infections, septicaemia, skin infections, recurrent meningitis, toxic shock syndrome and a variety of gastro-intestinal diseases.
These studies were done in 2016. A study carried out by the department of microbiology of Tirunelveli Medical College in Tamil Nadu stated that the currency notes were contaminated with disease-causing pathogens such as Klebsiella pneumoniae, E coli and Staphylococcus aureus, i.e. pathogen that are present in excreta.
These currency notes were collected from a variety of sources including doctors, banks, local markets, butchers, students and housewives.
The studies prompted the food regulator to issue advisory. It mentioned that it is needed to ensure that hotels, hospitals, school and office canteens, restaurants, street food stalls, shops selling bakery products, sweets, and even those preparing food for mid-day meals and religious places, do not contaminate food with currency either at the time of preparation or at the time of sale or distribution.
Speaking to Mail Today, Dr SP Byotra, chairman of the internal medicine department at Delhis Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said, It is a welcome initiative taken by the FSSAI to make people aware of the unhygienic transaction of currency notes and coins by hand. These are the biggest source of germs such as bacteria, fungi and parasites which can make us all sick. If we do a culture of currency notes, we can find harmful and life-threatening bacteria. For example, if a tuberculosis (TB) patient is keeping currency notes and coins in his pocket, with his sweat, the infection can be transferred to the currency and later this infection can pass onto the other person handling the notes.
"These microorganisms can cause us typhoid, lung diseases,gastrointestinal complications, etc," added Dr Byotra. Experts have pointed that currency notes should be handled and counted in a similar way like bank officials do.
It has been observed that bank tellers keep a sponge damper pad to count notes. The regulator has advised that food handlers, food sellers and others should avoid handling currency and food simultaneously. It has recommended that gloves be used to handle food, and bare and clean hands be used to handle currency.