After the central Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a deadline of February 4, 2014, to food business operators for registration under Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) Act, hoteliers have expressed concern over how the law is not wholly implementable.
There are close to 7,000 small- and medium-sized restaurants in Mumbai. Most of them have registered with the state FDA under the FSSA Act regulations. However, they contend that the law is not clear on what falls under the gamut of restaurant’s responsibility and what doesn’t. “We are against specific norms of the act. It has not been taken into consideration that a farmer that grows vegetables and fruits. If a particular fruit or vegetable is pesticide-laden, we, the hotel owners, will be prosecuted under the new law for food poisoning, but the farmer won’t be held liable,” said a hotelier in Lower Parel.
Hotel owners also expressed unhappiness over the fact that under the new law they have to procure raw materials from vendors who are registered under the Act too. “We have no control over individual registrations of vegetable and fruit vendors under the Act. In India, fresh produce is procured from farmers and wholesale vendors. How are we to control supply chain issues and track every supplier to ensure there are no loopholes?” asked a hotelier from Matunga.
“Also, food safety inspectors specify that all food has to be cooked wearing gloves. There are practical difficulties in handling the batter for frying south Indian snacks with gloves on. Some rules are difficult to implement.”
Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) has maintained that it wasn’t against the Act but was arguing on the basis of ambiguity of the central law. Restaurateurs were also concerned that they will face the music from food safety officers for the hawkers’ or vendors’ fault.
According to the rule book, a restaurateur can be penalised up to Rs5 lakh, with imprisonment of up to six months, if proven guilty for maintaining unsanitary conditions leading to illness or death of a person after consuming the unhygienic food.
“A few Iranian cafes around South Mumbai have shut shop due to continual losses. I don’t understand why restaurants are, time and again, reprimanded by food safety officers when crackdown on hawkers who sell unsafe food should be the driving point to ensure safety of consumers,” said Pervez Irani, proprietor, Yazdani Bakery at Fort.