A ray of hope is emerging with the involvement of private sector in assessing the quality of a restaurant, beginning in Delhi because of the imminent Commonwealth Games. These private players are aiming to do something concrete so that foreign tourists get foods of international standards in food safety and hygiene during this period. The new program,under the banner 'Safe Food Destination', has been launched by the consultancy TQS Global Management System under which restaurants can voluntarily get themselves registered under the program for an year. Auditing and Monitor teams of the TSQ is assuring the restaurant owners that they would help them in maintaining food safety by educating staff through workshops, interaction and consultations. Under a scoring system a restaurant has to obtain a minimum of 40% in order to obtain a food safety certificate from TQS.
Basic facts regarding food safety practices involved in buying good quality raw materials, safe handling methods, precautions in storing, cleaning up of the facilities, personnel hygiene etc are expected to be dinned into the ears of the staff. The agency would be awarding the marks which is expected to go up every time its auditing team comes for inspection. A 75% mark will translate into silver grading, 85% getting golden while 95% would be eligible for the highest grade of platinum. One of the remarkable features of this scheme is the provision for some form of a consumer insurance which is new in a country like India which entitles the consumer to prefer limited claims towards any mishap or illness arising out of food safety issues in TQS registered outlets. This can be expected to give some peace of mind to the consumers as he is insured against any health injury arising out of food borne disease which puts only limited liability on the restaurant. In case of illness after eating at a registered member's restaurant, TQS will probe the incident and if found guilty of violation of safety norms, the registration is liable be cancelled. Unlike FSAAI's scheme, the agency claims that many restaurants in Delhi are registering with them for the program.
The initiative by the private sector is indeed laudable and it must be encouraged by the government. TSQ has good credentials as a quality management player with successes achieved in other countries like Bulgaria and Maldives in this area and even if FSSAI wants to continue with its own scheme, the private sector must be allowed to continue the operation which should be taken as complimentary to strengthen safety assurance programs in the country. Such programs must be extended to all over the country, though the movement may be some what slow to begin with. Probably more organizations in the private sector need to be roped in for such a system with pan India foot print. Even if the private ventures do succeed eventually, it will still have limited spread as only high end restaurants may be able to afford the certification system which costs about Rs 50000 for registration leaving more than 80% of the restaurants out side the ambit of such voluntary surviellance. The responsibility of the government to enforce safety standards in this segment still remains and the infrastructure for fulfilling this obligation must be strengthened.V.H.POTTY