Nuffoods Spectrum India

Develop a SOP to ensure safe and quality food

19 June 2018 | Column | By NFS Correspondent

food safety

food safety

Recently, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had ordered third party audit of few central government educational institutions. Majority of such units run in the name of hostel mess, canteen and cafeterias either failed in the audits or needed improvements. What was most surprising that many such units did not even have license under Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food businesses) Regulations, 2011 and were approved by the authorities of educational institutes.

 

In this background, FSSAI has clarified that –

 

  • All catering units operating such canteens in the premises of Central Government Institutions fall under the definition of food business operator and need to obtain a license. If such canteens are found violating any of the provisions contained in Food safety and standards Act, 2006, rules and regulations made thereunder; they would be subject to penal action.

 

  • The commissioners of food safety in States and Union Territories have been directed to identify defaulting canteens being run in institutes and take strict action against them.

 

Now, few questions can crop up –

  • Why audits were conducted only in central government educational institutions?
  • Whether the above mentioned clarifications are going to be made applicable to all canteens being run in the premises of state government institutions as well?
  • Whether the above mentioned clarifications are going to be made applicable to all canteens being run in private schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, companies etc.?

 

It appears that these clarifications are more like a warning bell for all canteens being run in central government institutions. It may prove to be a cause of major embarrassment for the government if canteens run in their own premises re adjudicated to be in violation of laws and penalties are imposed upon them. Therefore, before that happens, such canteens have been warned through audits. Further, it is possible that at some of these places such canteens may be being run under the direct supervision of a government department. In that scenario, concerned person in that department may also be held responsible.  

 

Now, let us see the situation of all the canteens run in private schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, companies etc. There are good chances that swiftest actions shall be taken under these private institutions. In fact, it has already been reported that in the past few days that food samples have been collected and sent for testing from many of the private schools. Therefore, there is an urgent need for these organisations to set their house in order from the perspective of the Food safety and standards Act, rules and regulations made thereunder. Some of the steps which they can immediately take are as follows: -

  • To check whether the activities undertaken by them in providing food would fall under the definition of “food business’’ given under Food Safety and Standards Act. It is suggested that they do not get misguided by the usage of the term ‘business’. The definition of expression “food business” covers any non-profit making undertaking as well and prasads/eatables distributed by temples, gurudwaras have also been brought within its purview.
  • Seek food safety compliance report from the persons who are running such canteens.
  • Review their existing arrangements with persons running such canteens.
  • Develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure safe and quality food, and reporting of food poisoning cases.

 

Over all, these clarifications and directions by FSSAI are welcome steps which would force many food business operators to follow the food safety laws and could catalyse them in conforming to the prescribed standards.

 

- Kunal Kishore, Joint Partner, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan

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