Monday, June 22, 2009

Food quality regulator to rate Delhi eateries ahead of 2010 Games

The government wants to create a directory of safe food joints, but experts think it may have bitten off more than it can chew
New Delhi:Before India’s capital hosts the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the country’s food quality regulator plans to put together a directory of safe small- and medium-sized eateries in and around the city.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is developing safety standards for such restaurants, including kerbside kiosks, and plans to gradually implement these in other cities as well.
The regulator, however, does not plan to make the standards and guidelines mandatory. The idea is to make them follow the standard voluntarily. We do not want to force it, said P.I. Suvrathan, chairman, FSSAI. When consumers start opting for safer options, it will push all the eating joints to adhere to the safety system.
FSSAI would look at the quality of the food served, the kind of water used to prepare the food, seating arrangement, level of contamination, and also issues such as how the leftover food is disposed of. We will rate and grade eating joints on such parameters, Suvrathan said.
To be sure, there are concerns on how the country’s vast and diverse food sector from hawkers and roadside eateries to expensive restaurants can be regulated. An industry expert, however, said such initiatives should be developmental in nature, with minimal focus on regulation.
If most initiatives are punitive in nature, it will indirectly adversely impact the investment in food service and food processing sector, said Sanjay Sethi, vice-president, food and agriculture, at retail consultancy firm Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd. So FSSAI should lay emphasis on capacity building, skill development, recognition of star performing outlets, enhancing linkages and improvement of the supply chain.
To begin with, FSSAI will launch its directory in Delhi as the city is expected to see a surge of visitors for the Games scheduled to be held in October next year.
In the next two-three years, we have a plan to survey and grade restaurants across India and release city-specific directories and put up the names on our website, Suvrathan said.
FSSAI was set up last year under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, as a statutory body to establish scientific standards on food quality and safety.

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