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Food Safety & Standards Act: Impact on Corporate Companies

The Food Safety and Standards Bill was passed on 23rd August, 2006, and on statute book as Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006. The Act has been implemented as a law with effect from 5th August, 2011.

A few salient changes that have come into effect are:

The past: Need for a new Food Safety Law –

  • The pre-existing food regulatory laws were complicated due to involvement of various ministries and department
  • Multiplicity of food laws and different enforcement agencies working in different sectors of food made it more complex
  • It lacked in scientific base, modernization and advanced instrumentation in analytical areas
  • Lack of awareness among consumers

The new Food Safety Law –

  • Decentralization of licensing for food products
  • Easy issue of License with time frame of two months
  • No License for small food business operators; only registration is mandatory
  • Ensures simplified licensing procedures and registration
  • The act ensures safety of consumers and assures full compensation to victim (In case of injury, grievous injury, death)
  • The act emphasizes on training and awareness program regarding food safety for business operators, consumers and regulators
  • The act encourages self-regulation through introduction of Food Recall Procedures

Benefits of the new Food Safety & Standard Act

  • Single point access to all laws and departmental controls.
  • FSSAI as a single reference point for all matters relating to Food Safety and Standards, Regulations and Enforcement
  • High degree of consumer confidence in quality & safety of food
  • A single license by the Licensing Authority for one or more articles of food and for different establishments or premises in the same local area.

Establishment of Food Safety & Standards Authority of India

  • The Government of India by notification established a body known as the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India under the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006.
  • The Food safety and authority of India works under Ministry of Health and Welfare
  • FSSAI will ensure availability of wholesome safe food for human consumption.
  • At State level “Commissioner of Food Safety “ will be the Highest Regulatory and Implementing Authority.

Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011:

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India made the Regulations –

Food Safety and Standards (Licensing And Registration Of Food Businesses)

Regulations 2011, and is being implemented from 5th August 2011 in the interest of Food Business Operators and consumers.

The various other Rules and Regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006:

  • The Food Safety & Standards (FS&S) Rules, 2011
  • The FS&S (Licensing & registration of food business) Regulation 2011(4 schedules & 3 annexure)
  • The FS&S (Packaging & labeling) Regulation 2011
  • The FS&S (Food products standards & food additives) Regulation 2011
  • The FS&S (Prohibition & restrictions on sales) Regulation 2011
  • The FS&S (Contaminants, toxins & residues) Regulation 2011
  • The FS&S (Laboratory & sample analysis) Regulation 2011

What is in it for the Corporate Companies to worry about

Majority of the Corporate Companies try to provide good quality food to their employees in their inhouse canteens/cafeterias. This initiative taken by the Companies helps their employees in multiple ways.

In most of the cases, the food served is catered by catering companies or Food Vendors. Thus the kitchens of the Corporate Companies do not function as the Primary Kitchen, or the Wet Kitchen. In some cases, however, few dishes like dosas, sandwiches, etc., are prepared in the canteens; but the meals are prepared at the vendor’s kitchen.

Ensuring Food Safety and Hygiene becomes all the more difficult under this outsourced business model. Because of the highly discounted pricing structure of the caterers, they have to operate with very thin profit margins. Thus they try to cut corners and costs to increase their profitability.

It is often noticed that under the great urge of cutting costs, the catering business owners cut down activities that are extremely essential for Food Safety, viz. regular Pest Control, regular Health Check of the Food Handlers, regular Hand Washing and Hand Sanitizing Mechanism, etc. Though these are simple and inexpensive measures of Hygiene, they are often ignored and neglected by the Food Vendors.

Though it is not understood by many, the costs of such wrong practices are actually borne by the people eating in the canteens. As a result of negligence of the Food Vendors, food poisoning still remains a very common phenomenon in the canteens/cafeterias. The customers of the canteens, often the employees of the companies, fall ill because of the contaminated food being served by the Food Vendors.

Under the new FSS Act, the following will be the responsibility of the Corporate Companies:

  1. Registration/Licensing of the Food Vendors: All the Food Vendors that have been contracted by the company need to be Registered/Licensed under the new FSS Act. Any Vendor that operates only in one state needs to get registered with the FDA of the respective State, and for the Vendors who operate in more than one state need to register with the Central Food Safety Authority – FSSAI.
  2. Registration/Licensing of the Corporate Canteen/Cafeteria: If any Food Items are being cooked/manufactured in the Corporate Canteen, registration/licensing ofthe Corporate Canteens also need to be done.
  3. Adoption of a Food Safety Management System Plan by the Vendor: Under the new law it is mandatory for every Food Manufacturer to prepare a Food Safety Management System Plan. This plan ensures quality monitoring of the food produced across the entire Food Manufacturing Process. This plan needs to be reviewed annually and its implementation needs to be monitored.
  4. Potable Water being used for cooking: All the Food Manufacturing bodies and Food Serving Canteens need to get the water from their water source tested for “Potability”. This would ensure that the water being used for cooking is drinkable and is safe for Human Consumption.
  5. Documentation of Food Quality Monitoring Initiatives: It is always good to be safe, than sorry. Regular Audit Reports done by an Internal Auditor (Trained Admin/Facility Manager), and monthly/quarterly Audit Reports by a Food Safety/Hygiene Auditor, coupled with monthly/quarterly Food, Water and Hygiene Swab testing reports, and documentation of the steps taken for rectification of errors in case of any non-compliance to the standards found would complete the documentation required for safe guard against the rough sides of the Law.
  6. Such documentation is needed to be maintained at the Food Vendor’s end, as well as the Corporate Canteen’s too.

  7. Penalties: Any Company found to have contracted a Food Vendor, without the FSSAI License / Registration will be prosecuted by FSSAI / FDA. The responsible managers handling F&B / Catering / Canteen / Cafeteria will be held responsible. In case of any unfortunate incidents like food poisoning, outbreak of food borne diseases, etc., and if proper documentation is not maintained, the Authorities will prosecute the responsible person with monitory penalties ranging between `1,00,000/- up to `10,00,000/- and/or imprisonment from six months up to lifetime, depending upon the severity of the case and the documentation maintained as safe guard.
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