The FSSAI aspires to raise the quality and safety of the unorganised fruits and vegetable retail markets and bring them to a level of organised vegetable and fruit stores. This will instil trust in consumers to have clean and safe produce. The ‘Clean and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Market’ guidance document has been recently framed by the FSSAI. The guidance document contains the basic safety and hygienic requirements, SOP, audit checklist, details of auditing and training partners. It also contains a list of potential markets across the country which will help in the implementation of this initiative. One of the important parts of this initiative is training vendors/handlers involved in the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables on basic food safety and hygiene.
(This article contains the highlights of the initiative which can be accessed for details at https://fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Guidance_Document_Clean_Fresh_Fruit_Vegetable_11_05_2020.pdf)
Fresh produce includes fruits, vegetables and herbs that are raw and have not been processed or altered by any preservation process before being sold to consumers. They are the major source of nutrient in our daily diets.
Distribution of fresh produce is challenging because they are of a perishable nature. Local retailers play a key role in their distribution to consumers. However local markets/ retailers are perceived to be unsafe due to the widespread concerns on poor hygiene and sanitation/waste disposal system, use of banned ripening agents, use of artificial colours, harmful acids and chemicals, sale of non-organic produce as organic at high process, use of non-potable water on fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Organised retail sector includes Reliance fresh, Big Bazar, Nature’s Basket, APMCs etc.
- Unorganised retail sector comprises of pavement vendors, non-permanent shops in the market, pushcart vendors and mandis.
In order to upgrade the existing conditions of fresh fruit and vegetable markets across the country and provide safe and clean produce to consumers the FSSAI has framed some benchmark guidelines for hygienic and safety requirements. In addition, infrastructure support in providing common facilities like cold rooms, ripening chambers, common hygiene station for vendors, waste disposal areas, etc. will also be part of the initiative with the support of state government bodies and other stakeholders. Large scale training, certification and capacity building of vendors would be an integral pillar of this initiative. Credibility may be provided by recognising such markets as “Clean and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Market”
“Such a market would be defined as “a market or cluster of permanent vending stalls/carts/ kiosks selling fresh fruits and vegetables having adequate infrastructure and meet the basic hygiene and safety requirements. It excludes wholesale markets” (FSSAI)
- The vendors of fruits and vegetables shall be registered/licenced under Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Business) Regulations 2011.
- FSSAI Registration/Licence number and Food Safety Display Board (FSDB) with green colour code applicable to Fruit & Vegetable retail business shall be displayed on the cart/kiosk/shop (Annexure A)
- A food safety team may be identified for handling work and communication related to clean and fresh fruit vegetable market.
- No person shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his premises for the purpose of sale under any description, fruits which have been artificially ripened by use of acetylene gas, commonly known as carbide gas.
- The fruits may be artificially ripened by using ethylene gas obtained from any safe source up to 100 ppm. The source of ethylene gas shall not come in direct contact with fruits.
- No person shall store the unauthorised chemicals in premises.
- Stickers without any relevant information such as traceability, grade, price, barcode, etc. should not be used directly on fruits and vegetables/
- A functional barrier may be used to avoid direct application of stickers on fruits and vegetables. Few fruits may be packed in transparent thin film on which sticker may be applied.
- If stickers are used directly on the skin of fruits and vegetables, the adhesives and inks used on the stickers must be of quality which should not cause any adverse effect on human health.
- All fruits and vegetables sold in the market shall be free from colouring matter, mineral oils or any other harmful chemicals.
- Wax coating of fruits shall be done only with beeswax (white and yellow) or carnauba wax or shellac wax at level not exceeding Good Manufacturing Practices. No waxes except those mentioned above are permitted for coating of fruits.
- Every package of fresh fruit if coated with wax shall carry the label “Coated with wax (give name of wax).
b) FOOD SAFETY AND HYGIENE REQUIREMENTS
(1) Personal Hygiene
- All vendors/handlers should wear suitable protective clothing and footwear.
- Vendors/handlers shall wash their hands with soap/detergent and water before commencing work and every time after using toilet.
- Vendors/handlers suspected or known to be ill should not be allowed to handle fresh produce to avoid microbial contamination.
- Any cuts or wounds should be completely protected by waterproof dressing that is firmly secured.
- Eating, chewing, smoking, spitting and nose blowing shall be prohibited within the premises especially while handling fruits and vegetables. It may be done at separate designated are away from market premises.
- All staff or sub-contractors should be made aware of the hygiene and health principles before entering a premise or commencing work.
(2) Location and Facilities
- The market may be of closed (inside building) or open (in open air) type with identified area.
- The market shall be located away from environmental pollution and industrial area producing toxic gases.
- The vending surface or display area of shop/stall/kiosk shall be above from ground.
- The premises shall be clean, adequately lighted and ventilated and have sufficient free space to allow easy movement of persons and materials.
- Floors, ceilings and walls must be maintained in a sound condition. They should be smooth and easy to clean with no flaking paint or plaster.
- A designated area for storage of packaging material, clothes, shoes, ripening agents, cleaning agents, water etc. shall be maintained to avoid its contact with food products.
- Adequate drainage facility shall be maintained. Drains should be cleaned at appropriate prescribed frequency to avoid blockage and overflow.
- Designated area shall be identified for loading and unloading of fruits and vegetables in distribution vehicles.
- A separate area for washing of fresh fruits and vegetables may be designated with continuous availability of potable and clean water.
- Equipment such as cooling chambers, moisture retention chambers, ripening chambers may be installed at these markets.
- In open air markets, vending shops/stalls/carts/kiosk shall be covered with canopy, plastic or metal sheets etc. to prevent fruits and vegetables from direct sunlight which may result in moisture loss.
- There shall be appropriate toilets and hand washing facilities with clean water, soap. It shall be kept clean and hygienic.
- Bulbs or lights shall be covered with plastic covers to avoid its contact with food in case of breakage.
- In case of closed facilities, the windows or ventilation openings shall be covered with shatter proof glass or wire mesh to prevent entry of birds and insects.
- Entry of wild animals, pets shall be prevented by fencing, hedges, gates etc.
(3) Cleaning and Sanitation
- Platforms or display units shall be of material, so as not to affect the fruits and vegetables by metal contaminants, chipping surfaces, paints, loose nails, glass pieces etc. In case of wooden platforms; a water-resistant coating/covering shall be used to prevent growth of fungus and moulds.
- Display units/crates/trays shall be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis, after use and after any spillages.
- Floor of the shops/stalls and slab shall be cleaned every day before starting the work.
- The equipment and cutting tools (knives, boards etc) which may come in contact with fruits & vegetables shall be of rust/corrosion resistant materials and kept in clean and good condition.
(4) Handing of Fruits and Vegetables
- Fruits and vegetables shall be handled carefully when being mounted on displays to avoid bruising and product damage.
- Fruits and vegetables shall not be placed directly on floors or platforms. It should be placed over display units, crates, boards etc.
- The organic fruits and vegetables shall be displayed and stored in a manner that it shall be distinguishable from the non-organic fruit units to prevent overheating (due to lack of air circulation) and produce bruising.
- Fruits and vegetables on display shall be visually inspected on a regular bases for signs of damage, breakdown, physical contaminants and spillages. Any poor-quality produce should be removed from sale.
- Any fruit or vegetable cut for display shall be discarded after use.
- Fruits and vegetables for sale shall be regularly rotated to follow FIFO (FIFO-first in first out – use items first which are brought first). The fruits and vegetables which require some time for ripening may be sold when ripened.
(5) Water Supply and Quality
- Only potable water shall be used wherever it comes in direct contact with fruits and vegetables such as washing, sprinkling etc.
- Continuous supply of potable water shall be ensured in the premises. In case of intermittent water supply, adequate storage arrangement for water shall be made.
- Water storage tanks shall be cleaned periodically and records of the same shall be maintained in a register.
- Quality of water should be analysed after every six months by third party laboratory.
(6) Pest Control
- Every vendor shall at all times take appropriate measures to keep his/her stall free from pest to prevent contamination of the food.
- Pest control activity shall be conducted regularly with authorised pest control agency.
- Fruits and vegetables if damaged by inset or pest must be segregated and disposed immediately.
- Pest control materials/chemicals such as insecticides, rodent glue trap etc. shall not come in direct contact with fruits and vegetables.
(7) Waste Disposal
- Waste generated at the market may be classified as follows:
1.Fruits and vegetables waste (FVWs)
2.Other waste which include corrugated boxes, metals, woods, plastic crates and other composite wastes.
- Each vendor shall have provision for handling above mentioned wastes. Separate bins may be installed for wet and dry waste.
- All FVWs shall be properly disposed of in garbage or waste bins with fitted lids to avoid contamination of spoiled waste by flies, birds and animals.
- Waste water obtained after cleaning of fruits and vegetables should be drained immediately into drains or sewers and to avoid its reuse and spillage.
- Waste bins should be covered and made of material which could be easily cleaned and disinfected. Bins should not be overfilled.
- Sufficient numbers of waste bins shall be installed in the premises. Collection of waste by municipalities on a daily basis should be done.
(8) Sources of Fruits and Vegetables and Traceability
- Sourcing of fruits and vegetables from the area/fields having high levels of heavy metals in the soil or using drainage water for irrigation of fruits and vegetables may be discouraged.
- Fruits and vegetables shall be sourced from authentic producers and suppliers and records of their details shall be maintained to mitigate unauthorized or adulterated products in the supply chain.
- All organic fruits and vegetables suppliers shall have appropriate certification and shall comply Food Safety & Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017.
(9) Storage of Fruits and Vegetables
- Fruits and vegetables shall be stored in a manner whereby contamination by other products such as cleaning agents, insecticides, packaging material shall not occur.
- Adequate number of racks, crates shall be provided for storage to allow good air circulation.
- Fruits and vegetables not sold at the end of day should be stored appropriately as per its storage temperature requirements. Green leafy vegetables should be stored at refrigerated temperature (40C – 60C)
- Proper compartment for each class of products such as tubers, seeds, leafy vegetables, soft frits etc. shall also be provided wherever possible to avoid cross contamination.
- Proper storage conditions i.e. temperature and humidity are needed to lengthen storage life and maintain quality. Commonly fresh fruits and vegetables need low temperatures (0-120C) and high relative humidity 80 to 95% approx.) to lower respiration and to slow metabolic and transpiration rates.
- Fruits and vegetables that require warmer storage temperatures (such as potato, onion, banana etc) shall not be stored to low temperatures to avoid chilling or freezing injury.
- A humidifier may be installed in the storage area to maintain relative humidity.
- Organic fruits and vegetables shall be stored separately from non-organic with proper identification label.
- Damaged and spoiled fruits and vegetables shall be stored separately at designated area for further disposal.
(10) Transportation of Fruits and Vegetables
- All transportation vehicles/lorry shall be inspected prior to unloading or loading by competent personnel to ensure it is sanitary, structurally sound, and has not or will not promote deterioration, contamination or damage to the commodity.
- The vehicles or lorry shall be free from pest, holes, debris of fruits and vegetables, objectionable odour and visible moulds. It should be clean and hygienic.
- Transportation vehicle shall be covered properly to percent contamination or damage due to weather, insects, rodents or other pests.
- All refrigerated vehicles shall be equipped with appropriate refrigeration and recording devices to maintain suitable temperature that can be documented.
(11) Education and Training
All vendors, helpers and handlers should undergo basic training in personal hygiene, including effective hand-washing and handling of fruits and vegetables.
(12) Record Keeping
The market shall have a documented procedure in place to inspect, monitor and record all incoming and outgoing transportation vehicles/lorry or containers. Records of authorised suppliers, pest control activities and waste disposal system shall be maintained.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Adoption of Initiative
- Vegetable Markets Identification: Under this project a local market or geographical area on a specific road where there is an accumulation of fruit and vegetable vendors will be identified and recommended to FSSAI by the local authority.
- Pre-audit vendors of fruit and vegetable markets will be inspected by State FDA and FSSAI empanelled auditing agency
- Implementation which includes training, compliance submission.
- Final Audit for gap analysis and sent for assessment to FSSAI before certification as Clean and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Market
- Certificate of Declaration given by FSSAI
- Sustainability and renewal certificate will involve routine inspection, like mandatory observation of vendors on monthly basis and obtain reports. Testing to be done once in six months for fruits, vegetables and water and presence of harmful colours, pesticides and metal contaminants, etc. Renewal certificate will be provided on basis of consistent satisfactory outcomes throughout the year.
Successful implementation of initiative means involvement of stakeholders like
Government agencies like FDA, National Horticultural Board, Municipal Administration, Urban Development Department. Food Processing and Agriculture Ministry to take responsibilities like
- Upgrade and monitor infrastructure and facilities like lighting, waste disposal, water, cleanliness etc.
- Coordinate between organisations
- Monitor and review project progress
Training partners are required for conducting training
Auditing agencies to ensure timely audit
A digital app as an aggregator platform is being created for collating the information on organic and non-organic fruits and vegetable vendors associated with the initiative. It will help e-commerce platforms track range of produce available at these Clean and fresh Vegetable Markets
List of Annexures provided in the guidance document include the following
Annexure A – Food Safety Display Board
Annexure B- Enrolment Performa
Annexure C – Potential Clean and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Market (contains state wise listing of potential markets across India)
Annexure D – Inspection checklist for Fruit and Vegetable Markets (includes marking system)
Annexure E – List of Training Partners
Annexure F- List of Auditing Agencies