The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is working on new norms to grade outlets according to their level of hygiene and cleanliness
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is working on new norms on hygiene and cleanliness at food outlets across the country. All food outlets, from small dhabas to five-star hotels , will be graded according to their level of food hygiene and cleanliness.
This will mean that a dhaba in your neighbourhood could be rated as level-1 , if cooking practices measure up to the minimum standards laid down by the authority, while a fine dining restaurant may end up getting the top billing. It is also possible for restaurants belonging to the same chain to get different ratings.
FSSAI has also mandated all food outlets to register with their respective state authorities to keep a count of the number of eateries in every state. Besides food joints, the authority also plans to lay down basic norms of compliance for street vendors and hawkers, in collaboration with the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry, to maintain food hygiene.
While the standards will be finalized over the next few months, the deadline for mandatory registration expires in February 2014. Failure to get a licence or get registration done will lead to a penalty. The plan is to initially focus on metros and gradually move to the smaller cities and towns.
“Our criteria will be to come up with standards to grade food outlets. They could be graded as stars or as levels. The focus will be to see that they maintain food hygiene and safety so that consumers can make a wiser choice.
Apart from cleanliness at the place of cooking, the authority will also lay down guidelines for clean storage and transport facilities.
To ensure that consumers are aware of the hygiene practices being followed, outlets will also have to get, and display , a certificate issued by the authority displayed. Even as the large players have come out in support of the new norms, it is the small food businesses with limited resources that will pose trouble to ensure implementation.
“Naturally, the end cost to the consumer will go up as these outlets will need more investments into maintaining cleanliness. But the amount passed on will be very small. The main challenge is to train people in the sector to take these steps.
The authority, which is planning the standards in collaboration with the health and consumer affairs ministries , along with several other government and private institutions , plans to invite volunteers for training food outlet managers and street vendors.
“In places outside India, they have a holistic process of ensuring food safety. That will be our ultimate aim. We will have to come up with norms which will ensure a win-win situation for both the consumers and the eateries