Food regulation in India is commonly termed as a \'necessary evil\' by restaurateurs, as they know regulation is good to improve quality and standardise Indian food to match up with international standards.
Food regulation in India has been a key issue in the restaurant industry, lately. Due to slack law and order, the food regulatory body was unable to pass any regulation which could meet international standards. But with foreign brands entering India and the local customers becoming more experimental and choosy with food, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had passed a bill, in which, all the food operators, including the restaurant owners, food packaging companies and other F&B companies had to get their license done before 4th February 2014, without getting any further extensions. Food regulation and safety is a scientific discipline encompassing handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illnesses.
Why there is a hullaballoo?
India is passing through a strategic development when it comes to food and beverages. Not only Indian home-grown brands, but also foreign brands are taking the Indian food and beverages segment to greater heights. However, according to industry experts, restaurants these days neglect hygiene of a particular product or offering when it comes to serving food. They only focus on taste and quality. To make sure that the end consumer is getting the right product ensuring the safety of their health, FSSAI, the top most body in the Indian food law is strictly trying to get all the food related retailers and restaurateurs to come under the jurisdiction. However, the FSSAI law, which the government has implemented, is still being debated as there are certain points that need to be taken into consideration. For example, the pesticide law that seeks to regulate the quality, manufacture, import, export and sale of pesticides to control pests, must ensure availability of quality pesticides and minimise contamination of agricultural commodities with pesticide residue.
Commenting on the same, S Dave, Advisor, FSSAI informed, “This labeling requirement is not new. This requirement was published in 2011, almost three years back. We are not creating any new law or regulations but we are implementing what has been created for the safety and betterment of end consumers.”
Expressing his thought on the subject, Amit Burman, Chairman, Lite Bite Foods said, “FSSAI guidelines instruct on how to run a food establishment by maintaining general hygienic and sanitary practices. The guidelines help restaurateurs to run their establishment efficiently with proper planning and ensuring that the food quality and safety is maintained.”
Also industry experts say food borne illnesses would come down by implementing these rules diligently. Regulation is required in the current scenario as eating out has increased manifolds. There are international clientele too who expect safe food while eating out.
What the industry is saying?
While the food regulation guidelines mostly appreciated and accepted by the restaurateurs, yet few feel procedures to follow such regulations can be made ‘user friendly’. For example, in May’14, four eateries were shut down and a total fine of Rs 1.64 lakh was collected by Food Safety officials, in a raid conducted by these inspectors at Kochi.
Sharing his opinion, Zorawar Kalra, Founder & MD, Massive Restaurants, said, “The food safety regulations is stringent and tough to be followed, but it will help in giving India global food parameters, where people will start preferring to eat three times a day because they know that the food being served to them is of high standards and it has all the essentials required in the diet.”
Arabind Das, COO, Godrej Tyson Foods shared, “Food regulation will only strengthen the product safety but how it is being implemented is the biggest challenge. We have to look how we are going to bring the unorganised sector into this and make the entire industry come under the policy purview.”
Local meeting the global parameters
With food being one of the main markets of growing opportunities, the international brands are giving much attention to the regulations and legalities in a bid to deliver high class, globally acclaimed products to their fussy Indian consumers. Brands like Carl’s Jr, Burger King and Sbarro, which have entered the Indian market are focusing on building a global food standards, which meets the demand of the local customer who is well travelled and experienced in choosing the right restaurants to eat from.
Sam Chopra, Chairman, CybizCorp, who has signed a master franchisee deal with Carl’s Jr to operate its brand in India, said, “Indian market due to the sensitive nature and religious sentiments is very stringent on food regulations. Carl’s Jr Restaurants in India will not offer any beef options on its menu owing to the same.”
Sharing his insights on the subject, Burman explained, in India breaking rules is a daily norm, because we have a ‘passing window’ in the form bribes. He said, “This can stop only if both the food business officials and FSSAI decide to implement the law in its true sense – neither giving nor asking/accepting bribe.”
Clearly, the government body and the restaurant association should find out a middle way to serve the purposes effectively.