A “Talk on Foods Safety and Current Challenges” was recently organized by FoodSafetyHelpline. The panel discussion was presided over by Dr. Saurabh Arora, Founder of FoodSafetyHelpline, Managing Director at Auriga Research, also joined him for the discussion were; Dr Pawan Vats, Vice President at Auriga Research, Mr. Nishant Choubey, Corporate Chef at The Roseate and Mr. Amin Ali, Special Correspondent with the The Times of India. The “Talk on Food Safety and Current Challenges” was well received if we go by the response and the event was able to elicit. The event was held at Oxford Book Store Connaught Place, New Delhi on 16 June 2017 and was well attended by invitees, members of the food fraternity, media and consumers.
A number of food safety aspects were discussed which are of prime importance for all Food Business Operators. There was also a discussion of how informal responses and reviews on social media by consumers can make or break a restaurant’s reputation and hence the importance of ensuring total food safety compliance as prescribed in the FSSAI regulations. FBOs that ensure cleanliness, hygiene, and food safety in their restaurants, help to prevent foodborne illnesses and keep consumers safe.
Dr. Saurabh Arora conferred what constitutes food and what does not as there is a very thin line that separates them. Ayurvedic medicines, protein and vitamin supplements are not food but water and beverages fall into the category of foods. Farm produce might not be ‘food’ as defined in the food regulations but the moment it is processed it becomes food and falls within the purview of regulations. The Food Business Operator is the link between the farmer and the consumer in the supply chain whether as a processor, manufacturer, seller or transporter.
A covert food safety concern, that tends to be hidden, is contamination of food crops that occurs from chemical fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals and increasing use of antibiotics. These contaminants easily find their way into food unless tested on a regular basis. The farmer is not subject to regulations but the FBO can be held responsible if any of these contaminants are found in foods they process or manufacture if it is subject to testing like antibiotics in honey. Another area of food safety touched upon during the talks was that of adulteration whether intentional or unintentional. Unintentional addition of substances not mentioned on labels can lead to food safety issues even if they have been added just to enhance taste or extend shelf life. FSSAI therefore closely monitors all foods and has them tested in case of any suspicion.
FBOs are all conversant with food safety laws and adhere to them fully as they understand their responsibility towards consumers. They, therefore, make sure that they source food from reliable vendors. They lay emphasis on the cleanliness and hygiene aspect of food preparation areas and take personal hygiene norms very seriously with regard to their personnel. In maintaining personal hygiene hand-washing is one of the most important aspects as that goes a long way in preventing cross-contamination. Another important aspect is segregating foods like meat, fish, and vegetables during food preparation.
Nishant Choubey pointed out that while cooking food is one aspect of food preparation other aspects like storing it in the right temperatures before and after cooking are what makes foods safe to consume. For instance, foods should be cooked to the right temperature but when serving the temperature must be at least 63ºC. On the other hand, when serving cold foods the temperature must be 5 ºC. Food safety regulations say that food that has been cooked must be consumed within four hours of preparation or it can lead to microbial contamination and cause severe health problems like food poisoning.
Dr. Pawan Vats pointed out the importance of making food claims only if they can be backed with scientific data. FSSAI is becoming very stringent about food labels so food labels must carry complete information about the ingredients and nutrition. Labels must display the total number of calories per 100gms of food, a total number of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, and sugar content, besides the ‘best before’ or expiry dates. This information helps the consumer to remain safe and avoid foods that can be a health hazard.