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Food Safety 22 Dec 2014

Food safety is essential than food security: Dr Saurabh Arora

Web portal and mobile app Foodsafetyhelpline.com aims to spread awareness among businesses and consumers about food safety and its do’s and don’ts.

With rising concern over adulterated food being served by leading eateries across India, especially in popular brands like KFC, Bikanervala and Sagar Ratna, Dr Saurabh Arora, Founder, Foodsafetyhelpline.com, has come up with foodsafetyhelpline.com, a web portal and mobile app to spread awareness among businesses and consumers about food safety and its do’s and don’ts.

What made you conceptualise this mobile app? Who are your target consumers and why?

We have developed foodsafetyhelpline.com and the food safety helpline mobile app to help food businesses understand and implement the requirement of the new Food Safety and Standards Act, which is now being strictly enforced in the country.

We believe by creating awareness and understanding the law, we can help businesses not just fulfill the legal requirements, but actually help them grow manifold and increase customer loyalty. Good quality food help businesses grow and implementing the Food Act helps them achieve customer satisfaction.

Also, for a successful implementation of the law, proper training and awareness is extremely essential for the person handling food, online and mobile app. It is the only cost effective way to reach everyone.

Our target consumers are all the people involved in the food chain from the farm-to-fork, farmers, warehousing, distributors, retailers, cooks, chefs, servers and consumers.

How is the so far public response over it? What kind of services you provide?

So far, the response is very good. We have got over 3,000 subscribers to our website, more than 7,000 monthly visitors and almost 1,000 people have attended our webinars and online training sessions.

We are trying to develop a single point solution for all the compliance needs of food businesses and offer them training, online discussion forums, where we answer all their queries, consult them for licensing and implementation, self inspect them with our mobile app, onsite inspection of their facilities by our experts to help them identify gaps and improve their systems.

Food testing services are our forte. We currently have food testing labs in Delhi, Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and Bangalore from where we are serving numerous food businesses.  Our team of over 250 people in the lab tests thousands of samples each month and help consumers remain healthy and safe.

How is the market of healthcare in India in comparison with international market? How important is food safety helpline?

The implementation of food safety is still in its nascent stage in India as only recently the focus has shifted from food security to food safety. Now that we have enough for all to eat, it is essential that what we eat is safe. Internationally, food safety is at its advanced stage of implementation and we have a long way to go. However, India has made a good start with the new

Food Safety and Standards Act. Food safety helpline is very important for spreading the knowledge so that we all consume safe and healthy food.

Spread light over the marketing strategy and promotional plans of the app? How you gained and captured the market in such a short span of time?

Our marketing activity is focused on solving our customers’ issues by offering required expert advice and knowledge to them through articles, webinars, live training sessions, trade shows and newsletters. We also have a team on the ground going door-to-door and introducing Food Safety Helpline to businesses and consumers.

How often do you upgrade your products category, technology and surpass relevant quality checks?

Our site and apps are monitored constantly and updated based on customer feedback. We have been adding new sections and features regularly. Recently, we have launched on sale food safety posters on our website after customers told us that these were difficult to find. We will be shortly introducing video training courses with online test and certifications to help food handlers. Our progress is totally dependent on the feedback from our community.

In a recent study, three major eating joints were found serving adulterated food. Moreover, KFC has often made headlines for serving rotten chicken in the menu. How your app is helpful in addressing issues like these and creating awareness among consumers?

The case of adulterated food with artificial colours is a classic example of the lack of knowledge of the current law and food safety issues. It has been claimed that the food contained Tartrazine, a yellow colour which is not permitted in cooked food as per the Food Safety and Standards Act.

Very few chefs in the country are aware of the colours they can and cannot use in the food. Had they been aware of that, they would have certainly used a permitted alternative. Chicken and all meats are high risk items and need special care while handling, storage and processing.

We have published simplified guides on our site on the handling of such high risk foods. Simple steps like storing at the right temperature, proper defrosting and cooking can prevent such issues.

In the winter season, various food outlets serve frozen food, kept in stores for days. How your app will contribute in creating awareness about the same?

Frozen foods are not bad if stored properly, the problems arise when stores assume that it is winter and the food will not get rot even if they switch off the freezer. The need to check the temperature of the products and ensuring the right temperature within the allowed limit is extremely important. For example, frozen food needs to be kept at below 18 degree.

How much revenue you are generating out of this web portal and mobile app? What are your expectations with the upcoming year?

We are currently not generating significant revenue from the app, but we want to reach out to all the people handling food and running food businesses in India in the coming year.

What other apps or websites are you planning to introduce in the Indian market? Which is your next focus area?

We are also working on skill development in the field of quality control and testing. We have a website called www.lab-training.com, where we are offering free and paid online training courses on food testing and related science. The site has over 10,000 subscribers and over 30,000 monthly visitors.

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