The basis of hospitality industry around the world is Food and Beverage and their production and service aspects. Therefore it is imperative for all establishments to not just set up their own means and measures to ensure food safety at all times, but also follow the direction of various government regulations put in force by specific departments, set up to monitor the same.
In the Indian context, food safety, while enforced and followed by all professional establishments, is a cause of concern due to the unorganized form of the industry existing across the geographic landscape of the country. Over the years the government has been taking numerous steps to ensure that there are proper laws and systems to set up guidelines and enforcement of the same like the Food Safety & Standards Act (FSSA) 2006.
The Food Safety & Standards Act (FSSA) 2006 consolidates the laws pertaining to the regulations to be followed by all food establishments across India, while also establishing the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which is the apex food regulator to lay down science bases standards for all articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. FSSAI is empowered by and functions under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
Under the FSSAI guideline, food products are categorized under two heads, namely Standardised and proprietary food. The former are those food products for which standards are prescribed and do not require product approval prior to manufacture, sale, distribution or import and a first time manufacturer or importer only requires an FSSAI license to begin a food business.
Proprietary food products do not have standards owing to their safety parameters not being known or yet ascertained. While FSSAI presently has approximately 377, FCS will be built around 18 main categories to begin with, which include category 1-16 of different food kinds. These are supplemented with category 17, to cover those products which can’t be placed in categories 1-16 and a category 99 has been created to deal with substances added to food, such as vitamins, minerals, additives, etc. Having said that, traditional foods do not require product approval as they are being consumed over centuries, with their ingredients and preparation being known. However, if they use any new technology or modern method of preparation or make alterations to their ingredients or food additive, they have to apply for product approval from FSSAI.
The Indian food safety regulation, implemented by the FSSAI, is primarily based on Codex Alimentarius, which was formed with collaborative efforts between two sections of the United Nations: World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), therefore adhering to international standards and guidelines (reference link). Based on these guidelines there are certain best practices put into effect by the FSSAI for each operator in the business of food to implement and follow. Some of these are:
- 1.Food served to the costumer should be safe from the three main types offood hazards, i.e. Physical, Chemical & Microbiological
- 2.Hand Hygiene of Food Handlers: The spread of germs from the hands offood workers to food is an important cause of food borne illness outbreaks and therefore important for the staff to always ensure hand hygiene while handling any sort of open / unpacked food items
- 3.Personal Hygiene like daily bath, trimmed and neatly combed and tied hair and clean nails, fresh and clean clothing and ensuring the head is always covered with a net or cap
- 4.Proper cleanliness of raw material like vegetables and meat under portable water and proper storage under advised temperatures for the respective raw material
- 5.Always partnering with a vendor / source with proven track record and one which is approved by FSSAI with license number
- 6.Always cooking at the optimal temperature
- 7.Processing, production, storage and distribution of vegetables and meat / poultry / fish products should be segregated
- 8.Daily cleaning, and in some cases cleaning after every use, should be carried in the production area
- 9.Holding of cooked food must be at their optimal suggested temperature of below 5⁰C for cold food and above 63⁰C for hot food
- 10.Storage practice and handling: food must be stored at right temperature (avoidkeeping food at danger zone or near extreme temperatures not suitable for the said product). Gloves to be used while handling ready to eat products and while doing butchery
- 11.Food handlers must always be in perfect health at all times while handling any kind of product / food item
- 12.Trainings: it is essential that all food handlers are regularly monitored and trained to ensure that they are aware about the food safety procedures and updates
While private organisations and Government are working towards ensuring higher level of food safety standards are maintained across various levels and business, there is also a need for people to be more cautious on what and where they consume food articles from, while being watchful of the conditions they procure their ingredients / good / products from. Some of the most common mistakes that we make in India, especially in the summer season are:
- 1.Drinking water from unknown sources and in an unpackaged state
- 2.Consuming water based products like lime water or ice from an unpackaged or unreliable source
- 3.Not keeping the body hyderated at all times
- 4.Not consuming enough curd or coconut water from a reliable source, which introduces friendly bacteria and rehyderates the system to fight with various ailments
- 5.Not following a healthy regime or eating on time, thereby exposing the body to numerous diseases and illnesses
- 6.Being aware of the ingredients / food items that one is allergic to. Some allergies are from birth, but today there are numerous cases which have come to fore where adults have come to develop allergies and most of the time they aren’t aware of the same
- 7.Always checking on the date of manufacture and date of expiry in case of packaged goods before procuring it
- 8.Always disposing off expired goods stored at home / office or any area where they could be consumed inadvertently from
- 9.Always ensuring that the containers of packaged goods are properly disposed off
Food safety and hygiene is an elaborate subject, where the Government and private business are taking the requisite steps to ensure that the highest quality ingredients and products are offered to the consumers, however it is also essential for the consumers to ensure that they take the requisite steps and procure food products from only reliable and accredited sources at all times.