Sunday, June 2, 2013


Does cooking and serving food constitute manufacturing? There may not be a clear answer to this vexed question which is causing some problem for the FSSAI to enforce its Rules and Regulations primarily targeted at Food manufacturing industry. When cooking assumes commercial tone and food preparations are made in large quantities using mechanized gadgets, it may be difficult to argue that this does not constitute manufacturing. After all there is a lot of commonalities between the food made in a restaurant and processed by the main stream industry such as raw material standards, preparation environment and its safety, sanitary aspects of gadgets and other paraphernalia used, personnel hygiene, storage conditions and product specifications. Therefore the contention of hoteliers that the food laws as they exist to day in India are not applicable to them may not be valid. Recent judgment by the judiciary in Mumbai asking the Government to frame separate rules for hotels may not be justifiable. Here is a take on this court ruling which may cause some discomfort to the food safety authorities.  

The Bombay High Court today suggested the Maharashtra government to frame separate rules and regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) for food service providers like hotels and restaurants. A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha was hearing a petition filed by the Association of Indian Hotels and Restaurants (AHAR), which has over 6,000 members, challenging the constitutional validity of FSSA 2006 and the Rules and Regulations framed under the Act in 2011. According to the petitioner association, the provisions of FSSA are not applicable to food hotels and restaurants as they do not manufacture food. "The Act deals only with manufacturing of food articles and are mainly and substantially for manufacturing units. In hotels and restaurants food is cooked and served to customers. Cooking of food is not manufacturing," the petition states.

It is rather ingenious for one to argue that restaurant foods do not constitute "manufacturing" and hence the existing laws must not be enforced within a hotel! What if the Government amend the law to include food preparations in commercial establishments like hotels also in its ambit which may be perfectly justified? If it is a question of scale of operation, food industry has also small and cottage scale operators who are bound by the law and same should apply to restaurants also. The food laws are intended to protect the citizens from unsafe and sub-standard foods and therefore the standards should not be diluted at any cost. On the other hand there is a case for more making the rules more stringent because the vulnerability of citizens to food poisoning is much more when restaurant foods are consumed than consuming packed foods made by the food industry.


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