The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has turned its attention to restaurants, eating joints and hotels to enforce hygiene standards.
A sub-group consisting of industry bodies like the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) and the FSSAI have been formed to amend rules that govern safety standards at eating establishments.
The sub-group was formed following a meeting last week in New Delhi among the FSSAI, NRAI, FHRAI as well as popular fast-food companies like Yum! and hotel groups like Taj and ITC.
FSSAI Chief Executive Officer Pawan Kumar Agarwal, while confirming the development to Business Standard, said enforcing food safety standards at eating places was a must.
"Hotels, restaurants and eating joints need an FSSAI licence to operate but food safety standards are not necessarily met. We wanted to get a sense of what the industry's view was on the subject and whether they were open to the idea of stringent enforcement," Agarwal said.
The move to regulate the food services market gains importance because of its sheer size. A report by Technopak and the NRAI says the size of the food services market in India is expected to grow from Rs 247,680 crore in 2013 to Rs 408,040 crore by 2018.
The five-year annual growth rate has been pegged at 11 per cent by the Technopak-NRAI report. The manner in which organised as well as unorganised eating places were growing in India was an indication of this trend, said Technopak Chairman Arvind Singhal.
"Despite all the talk about a discretionary slowdown, eating out as a seminal trend will only grow in India, implying that eating places will also grow," he said.
Last year, a couple in Mangalore had reported finding worms in their meal at a KFC outlet. A similar episode was reported by a family in Thiruvananthapuram in 2012. Yum!, the holding company of KFC, was not immediately available for comments when contacted at its India office.
NRAI Secretary-General Prakul Kumar said, "You cannot bundle a dhaba and a fine-dining or casual-dining restaurant together. There will have to be different yardsticks."
The sub-group is expected to meet in the next three weeks to propose amendments to Schedule 4 of the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, that govern hygiene standards of food service operators.
EATING OUT TO GET SAFER
SCHEDULE 4 OF FOOD SAFETY & STANDARDS REGULATIONS
It governs food safety and hygiene standards for all food business operators
Catering and food service operators such as restaurants, hotels and eating joints are covered under it
- School canteens, food service at religious places, dabbawalas, neighbourhood tiffin services, railways and airline catering as well as hospital catering under its ambit
Separate, detailed guidelines for different food service operators
While a basic set of guidelines may be common to all, safety and storage specifics may vary
Encouraging self-regulation. Enforcement, however, will remain with the state authorities
- To ensure that food service operators are not harassed by enforcement authorities