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STANDARDISING the business of Food


FSSAI today rings a bell of alarm among most hoteliers and restaurateurs, as they remain wary of unprecedented enforcement officials and the uncalled for inspector raj. Pawan Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, states his point of view.

Talking about FSSAI, he said, “FSSAI was formed with the legislation of 2006 and from 2011, it has started work, once its regulations were formed. In the beginning we stressed on the product standards of packaged and other food products. The focus was not that much on the service industry. In the food business either we have commodities, or there is packaged or processed food and there is the service industry that include restaurants, cater-ing establishments and hotels.” From a food safety and hygiene point of view FSS Act has brought all the licensing requirements under one umbrella. There were disputes about some of these issues which high court has in its order clarified.

He added, “Catering establishments from the very beginning have been under the purview of FSSAI. All catering establishments whether they are government canteens, street food joints, food vendors at railway stations, food plazas, mobile units, temple kitchens, or kitchens of religious places. They all come within the purview of FSSAI and many of them are already licensed and registered with us.  Recently we have taken up a special drive, as per which those who have been left out and have not got registered under FSSAI, will be also be registered. Whosoever is providing Pawan Agarwal Food food to public at large, will need to be registered under a FSSAI license.” Addressing the concerns of hoteliers, he said, “As far as the concerns of FHRAI and NRAI, independent or chain of hotels are there, they are very much justified. We have said that if you all genuinely believe that there is a need for improving the hygienic standards of restaurants, some of them are doing a good job, one must accept, but we do recognise the fact that many of these restaurants they require to do much more than what they are doing currently.

We are all on the same page that a lot more needs to be done in this particular space. What is to be done? How it has to be done? We have left it to them. We will co create the regulatory framework for restaurants and hotels and catering establishments. Up till now our entire focus has been on getting these establishments licensed by us, registered with us.”

Giving an idea about the standards that they are going to enforce, he said, “Then there are certain obligations of that license, which are still being deliberated on. There cannot be same standards for everybody, therefore we are taking a dual step, and there will be certain basic hygienic standards, applicable to all, with a zero tolerance policy in basic standards. We will encourage hotels, restaurants and catering establishments, to follow more advanced standards, more than what is given in the basic. That is voluntary. Wherein they certify that they themselves have volunteered and are following those standards. Then there will be a third category of hotels and restaurants, who want to follow global standards. They will be much better than even advanced standards. Then we will say that if you are significantly better than our advanced standards and are at par with GG We will encourage hotels, restaurants and catering establishments to follow more advanced standards, more than what is given in the basic. That is voluntary 9 the global standards, you have to demonstrate that you are at par with the global standards, and then we will have soft enforcement on them.”

Giving his take on heavy metal residue in food products, he said, “This concern of pesticide residue, heavy metal residue, this is a concern that is of recent origin. Until now even the testing facilities of the same were not available. I feel this concern to an extent is overstated by the industry. The processor for the pesticide limits, even the bigger chains if they are sourcing local material, there is hardly anything that they can do. Except when they are procuring it, they test the raw material and they find it above those limits, then they do not buy it.

Then the farmer per force is allowed to adopt good agricultural practices. This is a long drawn affair and boils down to changing the farming practices. Ground water levels are down in some areas there is an extensive amount of arsenic in the subsoil. If there is farming in those areas some of that arsenic will go into the food chain and will create problems. They require long term solution, a solution that goes beyond even the preview of FSSAI. The issue goes down to improving the agriculture and farming practices. These are issues that will actually take decades of research, experimentation, changing the behaviour, changing the farming practices. We will not hold our restaurants and hotels responsible for some of the things that are not in their control.”


Source: FHRAI