Restaurants are no longer places where we eat during weekends and on special occasions. Our changing lifestyle means that some of us eat there every day. So, the hygiene and quality of food served at restaurants is crucial for our safety and health.
The new Food Safety and Standards Act, 2011, came into effect in August last year, and by August 4, 2012, all restaurants and eateries with a certain turnover will have to comply with them.
To help restaurateurs understand the Act, DNA held its latest workshop under the Hygiene for Kitchens campaign for them. The workshop, organised in association with the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (Ahar), at the organisation’s head office in Wadala on Tuesday. Ahar is the biggest association of restaurant owners with nearly 8,000 members in the city.
“The industry is facing tough times,” said Sudhakar Shetty, Ahar president. “Restaurants are closing down because of the high cost of real estate and competition from hawkers who sell food at much cheaper rates because they do not pay taxes or rent.”
Ashwin Bhadri, head of business relations at Equinox Laboratories, which is a partner in the campaign, told the participants that while many restaurants look at food safety and hygiene requirements under the new Act as an expense, the new measures could help improve their business.
Restaurant owners were worried that the new rules could make scapegoats out of them, while ignoring blatant violators like street vendors.
The Act requires every restaurant to appoint a food handler who will be responsible for food safety. It also lays down heavy fines and jail sentences for food adulteration and bad hygiene.
The seminar also helped participants get answers to rarely-asked questions about food safety.
Bhadri informed the participants that monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is used as a flavour enhancer, is banned in India and it is okay to use food colours as long as it was a permitted colouring agent and used in the right quantity.
The DNA Hygiene for Kitchens campaign was launched after around 600 students fell ill at IIT--B after eating at the hostel canteen in September 2011. The incident brought in focus worries about the safety of food served in restaurants and canteens.