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Tracking hygiene: FSSAI steps up compliance check

Even five-star hotels are under the scanner and have had food safety officials carry out surprise inspections of their restaurants, hoteliers and restaurateurs said.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 19, 2016, 11.15 AM IST
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The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has increased its surprise checks and audits on hotels, restaurants and caterers to check hygiene levels and food quality.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has increased its surprise checks and audits on hotels, restaurants and caterers to check hygiene levels and food quality.
NEW DELHI: Controversies such as the temporary ban on Nestle’s Maggi instant noodles appear to have had a bearing on the hospitality sector, with the food regulator stepping up inspections of hotels and restaurants to check if they are complying with safety norms.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has increased its surprise checks and audits on hotels, restaurants and caterers to check hygiene levels and food quality. Even five-star hotels are under the scanner and have had food safety officials carry out surprise inspections of their restaurants, hoteliers and restauranteurs said.

“The number of checks has gone up. We have had recent surprise checks in our hotel in Gurgaon and east Delhi and even in locations like Hyderabad and Indore to check the quality of food,” said Rajeev Janveja, corporate chef at Lemon Tree Hotels.

Food safety has been in public focus since last year, when FSSAI banned the sale of Nestle’s Maggi noodles in the country for containing contaminants, although the order was eventually revoked. Nestle maintained at the time that the product was safe.

“After the Maggie issue, the FSSAI has become really active. There are a lot of surprise audits and raids being conducted at five-star restaurants with food safety officers visiting to check inventory, processes, hygiene levels and the licence to operate. A lot of hotels and QSRs (quick service restaurants) are under the scanner of the regulator,” said Vinay Garodiya, executive director, fraud investigation and dispute services at EY.

The FSSAI, which operates under the health ministry, is required to regulate and monitor the manufacture, processing, distribution, sale and import of food so as to ensure safe and wholesome food. Its tasks include the licensing and registration of food business. The regulator did not immediately respond to an email from ET seeking comment. “There can be massive adulteration in the packaged products that we buy and it’s in everybody’s interest to comply with these checks,” said a restaurateur on condition of anonymity.

“Large hotel players were never this worried about food safety until now but going ahead they will have to think aloud on this subject. Till now food safety has been managed by a particular chef in a facility and there needs to be a central team which monitors end-to-end food safety compliance and standards,” Garodiya added.Somnath Dey, executive assistant manager for food and beverages at the Hyatt Regency Delhi, said the FSSAI has always been a vigilant and well-respected body that checks regularly on food quality and ensures the highest of standards in its kitchens. “We have always welcomed their inspections, which are conducted on a regular basis, particularly when we have heads of state or other VIPs staying,” he said.

Restaurateur Marut Sikka credited the FSSAI with doing a good job and said the quality and standard of checks have improved. “The number of FSSAI licences have gone up as FSSAI licences do away with a lot of pre-requisites. So the checks could have also gone up as a result of the number of licences going up,” he said.

The food regulator ordered Nestle in June last year to withdraw its Maggi noodles after tests showed samples of the product contained monosodium glutamate and excessive levels of lead. The ban was lifted after the Bombay High Court revoked the FSSAI order on August 13 last year.

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