A seminar organised by on the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) on Food Safety & Standards Act in Delhi, focused on the Act’s implementation and challenges for the Indian Restaurant Industry.
Samir Kuckreja, President, NRAI,addressed issues related to licensing and registration, excessive documentation on the central list, group nominations for licenses for chain outlets, licensing registrations for vendors, proprietary product approvals, supply and clearances of imported products, etc, and presented a memorandum to D K Samantaray, IAS, CEO, FSSAI – the chief guest at the occasion. The Guest of Honour was K..K. Jindal, Commissioner, Food Safety, Delhi. Also present was Dr Meenakshi Singh, Microbiologist, Central Food Laboratory, Food Safety & Standards.
NRAI had, in the past, raised issues pertaining to excess documentation for licences, common nomination for restaurant chains, delay in clearances of imported products/consignments at ports, etc. Kuckreja said that while there was clarity on food safety related issues there were still concerns regarding the execution and implementation of the laws, and there was no clarity with regard to import of food products, proprietary products, etc. In order to create more awareness in the industry about food safety standards, he said that NRAI would organise seminars and workshops in other regions like Mumbai and Bangalore.
Agreeing to look into the issues of the restaurant industry, and advocating closer coordination and support from the private stakeholders to make the food sector safety compliant, Samantaray said that there cannot be an Inspector Raj as the Act was in the interest of everyone concerned and was still in the making. He urged the government and the private sector to join hands so that the compliance requirement could be fulfilled without taxing the private sector too much, and suggested that the industry at the state level should interact closely with the Food Safety Commissioners to resolve the problems. The food chain comprising of producers, processors and food service providers is private sector driven, and therefore the objectives of the Act cannot be achieved without the support of the sector. No other Act has taken so long to be implemented in the country, and the aim was to make the industry self compliant through training and capacity building.
KK Jindal said that only those food service operators who have an annual turnover of more than Rs 12 lakh need to obtain a licence under the Act, but others would have to register themselves under the Act to undertake a food service business. He informed that there were an estimated 50,000 food service operators (restaurants) in Delhi, and so far only 6,000 had applied for a licence.
He informed the audience that the new food law has come into existence after a decade of detailed deliberations, “If the processed food industry has to deliver wholesome and safe food, it will have to ensure that this Act and its rules and regulations are implemented – but not by force. The idea is to educate the people through training and capacity building for which the private sector will have to take the lead,” he said.
He stated that in order to standardise the food products, FSSAI was trying to harmonise with the Codex to expand the standardised food basket from 377 to about 11,000 by August 2014.
K K Jindal said that a big change in the new Act is that now food business operators would be dealing with only one, that is, FSSAI instead of many regulators as was the case earlier. The commissioner also announced that to expedite the regulatory process, about 126 centres have been made operational in various parts of Delhi (beginning July), and there would be a large office cum facilitation centre at Mayur Bhavan, Cannaught Place, with 22 counters. He defined the new Act as a comprehensive legislation, designed to facilitate food safety management systems, ensure better consumer safety, provide for effective, transparent and accountable regulatory framework within which the industry could grow more efficiently.
The seminar also saw an interactive session with presentations and panel discussions on Licensing & Registration Compliance; Sampling Enforcement & Legal Challenges; and Schedule IV Compliances – all of which gave insights into the specific areas and helped participants ensure compliance to the new law, whose earlier deadline of 4th August 2014 for FSSAI Registration/Licensing has been extended to 4th February 2015. The seminar was attended by restaurateurs, food producers and processors, F&B companies, and the media.