This festive season, when you walk into a sweet shop or a meat retailer, look out for their star rating from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
The Food Safety Department has so far certified 50 sweet and meat retail outlets each based on various hygienic practices. All sweet stalls in the city that took part this year have received five-star ratings.
“This certification is being done based on a set of parameters. External agencies authorised by the FSSAI are doing two sets of audits. They look at points including maintenance and sanitation, personal hygiene, control of operations and food safety certification among others. After the first round of audits, we give them points that can be improved and also three months to comply, after which another audit is conducted,” explained A. Ramakrishnan, designated officer (Chennai), Food Safety Department.
Though the certification is voluntary, a two-day training programme on food safety is compulsory for the establishments. “We have set a target of at least 500 persons for the next five months. The training is valid for a period of two years,” he added.
Sangeetha Group’s P. Rajagopal said the certification was yet another addition to the ISO certification of their central kitchen. “These certificates constantly remind us to maintain our standards and ensure quality service to customers,” he said.
M. Ravi of the Chennai Hotels’ Association said they welcomed the training and certification as it would help build confidence among customers.
He suggested that owners of smaller standalone restaurants and meat stalls too should be provided training so that the overall standard of the industry improves. “In places like Singapore and Malaysia, even local fish markets are run in a very hygienic manner with air conditioning. It is time our city followed such practices too,” he said.
A.G. Saranya Gayathiri, who heads Parikshan, a food safety and audit agency, said standalone restaurants, too, should opt to get hygiene ratings. “Hygiene rating is a very simple, understandable checklist where the first step is self assessment. It is good if the stakeholders are interested in implementing them and become self compliant,” she said. There were at least 8,000 persons, in various categories, who required training in the State, and they would be trained in batches, she added.