May 14, 2021

Food Safety Measures (With or Without Pandemic)

When we talk about food, numerous questions pop-up in our minds. How fresh are the ingredients, how was it cooked, was the surrounding in which it was prepared clean or not, what was the hygiene level of the person who prepared it and so on. 

We Indians are obsessed with food! Be it eating out in a gaudy restaurant, hogging down street food or cooking some sumptuous dish at home, we do it all and love it all. The recent metamorphosis of the food industry and coming up of cloud kitchens have pumped up our love for food even further by providing us with countless options and cuisines. The change in the lifestyle of the Indian middle class is evident not only by their disposable incomes but also by how their eating habits have evolved. Today, people eat out more frequently than ever before because it is convenient, tasty, cheap, and promoted on large scales. This consumer behaviour gives rise to a lot of food safety and hygiene-related issues. 

Pandemic or no pandemic, kitchens should follow some basic rules and regulations to ensure food safety and avoid health hazards. If not Covid-19, there are many more, highly fatal diseases that are communicable by eating bad food! And this concern doesn't just end here. With havoc created by Covid-19 in our lives, we have become more sceptical of eating outside food. People are concerned about delivery executives' health as well because they are being exposed to multiple people daily. 

According to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, Food Safety is defined as an "assurance that food is acceptable for human consumption according to its intended use." Food Safety also ensures that the food is handled, prepared and stored in ways that prevent borne illnesses. 

Some of you may wonder why we are getting into the technicality of all this, and does it really matter? Yes, it does! Let's get to know why. 

Food Safety prevents microbes and contaminants from getting into food and water. These microbes and contaminants are not only harmful to us, but they also destroy essential nutrients present in the food. Infections caused due to the consumption of unsafe food are reported in people with fragile health, kids and infants. These infections are usually more severe and sometimes prove to be fatal. Now that we have understood how dangerous consuming unsafe food can be, let's have a quick informative session on how to warrant food safety in kitchens and restaurants. 

Getting a FSSAI License

The first and the foremost thing any kitchen needs to do before being operational is obtaining a FSSAI license. Food Standard and Safety Authority of India is responsible for regulating food safety in the country. You must have seen a FSSAI logo on many of the packed products you consume; this means that it is FSSAI verified and is safe to eat. You must have heard the quote "health is wealth", which is precisely what this license aims for. Obtaining this license means that the food is 100% safe to consume without any health consequences. Having this license also makes the brand more trustworthy and creates positive brand image. If any food-related business fails to obtain the FSSAI license, then the liabilities can go up to imprisonment and heavy fines. 

This is the authority in India that lays down rules that every commercial kitchen needs to follow to ensure food safety. Recently, FSSAI launched a new cloud-based food safety online compliance platform called Food Safety Compliance System (FoSCoS). This system gives out guidelines that should be followed at a cloud kitchen or a food business premise. 

We all know the basic principals such as maintaining personal hygiene, sanitizing the surfaces at regular intervals, washing hands frequently, regular temperature checks of all the staff and riders, but now I will list some of the lesser-known guidelines as listed by FSSAI. 

  • The place where food is manufactured, processed or handled should be a sanitary place and free from filthy surroundings. All new units shall be set up away from environmentally polluted areas. 
  • The premises shall be clean, adequately lighted and ventilated and sufficient free space for movement.
  • Floors, Ceilings and walls must be maintained in a sound condition. They should be smooth and easy to clean with no flaking paint or plaster.
  • The floor and skirted walls shall be washed as per the requirement with an effective disinfectant; the premises shall be kept free from all insects. Windows, doors and other openings shall be fitted with net or screen, as appropriate to make the premise insect-free. 
  • The water used in the manufacturing shall be potable, and if required, chemical and bacteriological examination of the water shall be done at regular intervals at any recognized laboratory.
  • Equipment and machinery, when employed, shall be of such design which will permit easy cleaning. Arrangements for cleaning of containers, tables, working parts of machinery, etc., shall be provided.
  • No vessel, container or other equipment, the use of which is likely to cause metallic contamination injurious to health, shall be employed in the preparation, packing or storage of food. 
  • All equipment shall be kept clean, washed, dried and stacked at the close of business to ensure freedom from the growth of mould/ fungi and infestation.
  • There should be an efficient drainage system, and there shall be adequate provisions for the disposal of refuse.
  • The workers working in processing and preparation shall use clean aprons, hand gloves, and head wears.
  • Persons suffering from infectious diseases shall not be permitted to work. Any cuts or wounds shall remain covered at all time, and the person should not be allowed to come in direct contact with food.
  • All articles that are stored or are intended for sale shall be fit for consumption and have proper cover to avoid contamination.
  • Insecticides/disinfectants shall be kept and stored separately and `away from food manufacturing / storing/ handling areas.
  • Ventilation systems natural and /or mechanical, including air filters, exhaust fans, wherever required, shall be designed and constructed so that air does not flow from contaminated areas to clean areas.
  • Raw food, particularly meat, poultry and seafood products, shall be cold stored separately from the area of work-in-progress, processed, cooked and packaged products. The conditions of storage in terms of temperature and humidity requisite for enhancing the shelf life of the respective food materials/products shall be maintained.
  • Generally, visitors should be discouraged from going inside the food-handling areas. Proper care has to be taken to ensure that food safety & hygiene is not getting compromised due to visitors in the floor area.

The above mentioned are only a few of the guidelines that FSSAI have laid to maintain food safety. For complete information on this, feel free to access the various links I have attached below. 

Well, I hope this information is ample for you to understand what food safety is and why it is so stressed by FSSAI. Food is considered to be a delicate subject as it has the power to affect the health of the consumer directly, and if neglected, food contamination has far-reaching repercussions. Food safety is a shared responsibility among the governing bodies, industry, producers and consumers. As a food business owner, it is our responsibility to make sure that the food we serve is safe in all ways for the consumer and the environment. 

Links for Reference on Food Safety

https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/RCD_Draft_Catering_01_11_2017.pdf

https://archive.fssai.gov.in/home/safe-food-practices/FOOD-SAFETY-AND-HYGIENE-REQUIREMENTS.html

https://archive.fssai.gov.in/home/safe-food-practices/E-BOOKLETS.html

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