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Tejas food poisoning: From scathing CAG report to continued quality issues

At least 26 passengers of the Goa-Mumbai Tejas Express on Sunday take ill after consuming food served by the on-board pantry car operator

BS Web Desk | Agencies  |  New Delhi 

Tejas Express food poisoning
File photo of the Tejas Express. Photo: Twitter (@sureshpprabhu)

Automatic doors, WiFi and... Passengers travelling on the premium Mumbai-Goa appear to be no safer from the frequent quality issues that have plagued Railways food and hygiene standards. As many as 40 passengers on board the Mumbai-bound from Goa fell ill on Sunday after breakfast due to food poisoning, an agency report said, citing a senior official of the Konkan Railway.

The train was stopped at the Chiplun station in Maharashtra and all ailing passengers were admitted to the city's Life Care hospital. Their condition is not serious, Konkan Railway Chairman and Managing Director Sanjay Gupta told PTI. 

The Indian Railways has ordered an enquiry into the incident of The railway ministry has served a showcause notice on the catering contractor and said strict action would be taken if the contractor is found guilty.

In response to the food quality complaint, the Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in a series of tweets said: "Food samples have been taken for investigation. A total of 230 breakfast (117 Vegetarian + 113 Non Vegetarian) have been served."

"Director Catering services is proceeding to Mumbai to follow up the matter. Follow of action and monitoring is being done to ensure proper assistance."


Meanwhile, Chairman and Managing Director M P Mall told IANS: "The food was supplied from Madgaon (Goa) base kitchen under our supervision and nothing abnormal was reported. But everything is being investigated." He also said that the has collected the raw material from the kitchen. Mall said that the passengers were provided breakfast along with Knorr soup. "We are investigating the entire matter," he said, adding that he has spoken to passengers admitted in hospitals.
This particular incident could raise more alarm among passengers given that the was branded as a luxury train with ultra-modern amenities when it was launched in May this year.
Apart from the automatic doors, Wi-Fi, and LCD screens, the menu had also been an area of focus. In fact, according to reports from January this year, the Railways had been looking at celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor to curate the menu for the  

(Here is our full report on all the features passengers can avail of aboard the Tejas Express)

The incident also comes just two months after the Railways changed its catering practices in a bid to assure quality. 

As reported earlier, the Indian Railways will follow the aviation sector’s model to ensure quality food is served to passengers.

(Here is our full report on how the Railways is planning to follow airlines' model for providing quality food)

Back in August this year, the national transporter was mulling options to discard kitchens on running trains and, instead, shift food preparation to base kitchens run by the Railways. The move came after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said railway food was unsuitable for human consumption.

(Here is what the CAG had to say about food and hygiene on Indian Railways

According to a roadmap drawn up by IRCTC, the plan is to rope in multinational players that operate lounges in airports across the world, such as French food services and facilities management company Sodexo and Travel Food Services (TFS). might also engage service providers from the hospitality industry to serve food on trains. PricewaterhouseCoopers has been asked to come out with a roadmap to develop base kitchens and ensure quality service on trains.  

The CAG's damning indictment might not have been hyperbole either. 

As reported earlier, the CAG report said unpurified water from taps was used in preparing beverages; waste bins were not found covered, not emptied regularly, and not washed; food was not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust; rats and cockroaches were found in trains, among other issues.

In July this year, the Railway Ministry cancelled a caterer's contract after a passenger found a dead lizard in his vegetable biryani served on a Delhi-bound train from Howrah. (Read more here)

The passenger had ordered and eaten the dish without noticing the lizard but felt unwell later, a co-passenger, Meghna Sinha, said in a series of Tweets. 

Sinha had shot a photograph of the biryani packet, uploaded it on Twitter and tagged the Indian Railways. In another tweet, she had tagged then railways minister Suresh Prabhu. 

It's not just the common folk who can expect to find surprises in their meal, a former railways minister also found contaminants in a beverage he was served while travelling by train. (Read more here)

Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, who was travelling on board the Kathgodam-Delhi Shatabdi on Dussehra on September 30, was served lemon juice of a well-known brand, which, he said had 'kachra' (contamination) in it. In October, delisted the juice brand over Trivedi's complaint. 

"The really needs to pull up its socks. The railways needs to put in checks and balances so that there is some accountability of its subsidiary departments," Trivedi had told PTI after the incident.

First Published: Mon, October 16 2017. 10:56 IST