Are we doctors or guinea pigs?The poser comes from government doctors in the city, who are forced to make themselves available whenever a VIP (very important person) comes calling. Their job is to taste the food and certify that it is safe and hygienic for the visiting dignitary.Fed up with this colonial practice, the doctors have now made their stand clear. They are no more willing to be treated as guinea pigs for certifying the food.Following this, the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) has decided to send a letter to the government demanding that this practice be abolished with immediate effect.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The DMER is instead suggesting that the government appoint food inspectors from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for this VIP duty or make alternate arrangements for it.According to sources, the move (by DMER) comes after years of resentment and simmering protests by doctors who say they feel humiliated by this practice and are always at the mercy of the VIP’s itinerary.The DMER controls and regulates the administration of 13 government medical colleges and hospitals along with urban and rural health centres attached to them. It also regulates three government dental colleges and hospitals.”We have received several complaints from the doctors on the issue. We are working on the proposal to abolish this old tradition were doctors have to taste the food before being served to the VIPs. The proposal will be sent to the ministry within a week,” said Dr Pravin Shingare, director, DMER.”We already had a discussion with dean from Sir JJ group of Hospital. We also had several rounds of discussion with different authorities. We were getting regular complaints from the Medical Teachers’ Association and Resident Medical Officers association regarding this,” Shingare added.Dr Jayesh Lele, president, Indian Medical Association, said: “This is a welcome move. It’s high time the government make alternate arrangements for tasting food for VIPs.”For a VIP visit, on an average, five to six resident medical officers (RMO) are put on duty and it is the duty of these RMOs to taste all the food that will be eaten by the VIP. So much so, the doctors even have to taste and clear the food that is loaded onto the aircraft in which the VIPs are supposed to travel.While the RMOs have to taste the food, another team consisting of a surgeon, physician and anaesthetist accompany the convoy to monitor the VIP’s health and provide medical help in case of any emergency. There are times when senior doctors also have to taste the food, in case an RMO is absent.Health experts say that while a medical team is necessary in a VIP tour, a team of doctors working as food tasters is unnecessary. According to them, the government should appoint a food expert or use advances in food testing technology to find out whether food served to VIPs is edible or not.According to a senior gastroenterologist, even if the food causes any kind of infection, it’s very difficult to make out in an hour’s time. If there is E-coli in the food, you can only detect it after a day.