The Food Safety & Standards Act that was formed in 2006 but for many in the food business there are still gaps in clarity about the relevance of the Act in running their food businesses. Those who are aware of the Act sometimes have doubts about food regulations and FSSAI compliance requirements and don’t know how to get reliable advice and clarification. There is also a section in the food business community who still have no idea that they need license to run their food businesses. Keeping all these factors in mind an initiative was taken and Food Safety Helpline,was launched in 2013.
This online platform was built with the sole aim of providing a relevant and effective resource for the food business fraternity. The little funding that was required to set up the website was provided by the parent company- Auriga Research Limited.
Common platform for the diverse food community
The food market is growing exponentially and this entails that FSSAI compliance and food safety are two important aspects that cannot be emphasised enough. According to the data available from 2014 more than 500,00,000 licenses and over 20,00,000 registrations certificates have been issued by FSSAI. Mr. Vijay Kumar Arora, Chairman Arbro Pharma, says; “there are approximately 40 lakh food business operators which include: food manufacturers, food processors, importers, restaurateurs, wholesaler, retailers, marketers etc. who still need to come under the purview of the FSS Act, 2006.” Since the food industry is extremely diversified where traditional foods stand back to back with packaged and ready to eat foods. Nutraceuticals, health and dietary supplements, functional foods are all part of the industry. Dr. Saurabh Arora, Founder FoodSafetyHelpline.Com adds that, “there was a general consensus that Food Safety Helpline could be used as a tool to spread awareness about food safety regulations and food hygiene to this diverse audience. Food hygiene is a much overlooked aspect of food business in India on the streets as well as inside restaurants.”
Important website features
As the name suggests Food Safety Helpline (FSH) is dedicated to the food business fraternity. The entire Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 is placed on the website to facilitate easy access to regulatory information. There are e-courses, webinars, blog posts and news articles that target the food business community so that they can ensure better food safety for consumers.FSH promotes information gathering and learning for the food business community and therefore the content strategy also revolves around bringing to the notice of the food community interesting and important happenings in the food industry.The challenge lies in providing a reliable and responsible platform that provides a clear view of compliance needs. Since regulations are evolving FSH tries to bring to the knowledge of the food business community the latest changes so they are not left groping in the dark. The aim is to be a reliable, informative and responsible resource that serves the needs of one of the largest and most diverse food business community in the world.
Other available services
Through the web portal FSH is able to target the Food Business Operators and the mainaudience comprises;hotel and restaurant operators, food chains, importers, leading manufacturers and re-labellers.Keeping the larger audience in mind FSH also provides other services like label review services, e-learning and online and onsite training, consultation on FSSAI compliance for regulatory requirements like FSMS, Inspection/audit etc. Dr. Saurabh Arora says; “we also carry out some other services which are centred round testing food samples for FSSAI compliance needs and certain testing is also done for foreign regulatory requirements”.
Food Safety Helpline’s Mobile Application
The unique Food Safety Mobile App created and designed by the Food Safety Helpline team helps Food Business Operators to stay abreast with the latest and relevant information in the food industry.Equipped with food safety inspection tool the App helps food businesses carry out self-inspection of all operational processes to check their compliance with FSSAI guidelines. The automated reports generated can help to identify gaps in the system so food businesses can initiate corrective measures. FBOs can have access to updates of FSSAI announcements as well as articles on specific topics like packaging and labelling, contamination and personal hygiene etc.
A wealth of information can be gleaned from the webinar videos on important topics like Food Act, Licensing and Registration, Food Labelling and Food Product Approval System. The Mobile App is a user-friendly and convenient and the dashboard is confidential, secure and password protected. This provides safety and confidentiality of all records and reports. Since the App provides industry-based ready-made checklists it keeps food businesses well prepared for surprise inspections.
The future plans of the company
In just a short time Food Safety Helpline has been able to repose confidence as a reliable platform for the food business community. They get 32000 page views and about 16000 unique visitors per month and the audience comes from the length and breadth of the country. However, there is still much work to be done and Food Safety helpline is moving in that direction. According to estimates there are more than 40 lakh unlicensed food business operators.
Food Safety Helpline would like to get a lot more of these food business operators on board the online platform. This will empower them to promote food safety on a larger scale. At the same time they would also like to popularize other services like e-learning, through e-courses and webinars, onsite trainings on food hygiene. Future plans also include scaling up on consultation services which are based on regulatory requirements and on promotion of analytical and testing services and inspection/audits.
Their long term plans are equally impressive as they hope to provide mobile labs for facilitating the sampling of food products in important cities in India which would promote food hygiene. Auriga Research Limited is alsoplanning to expand operations and laboratory testing facilities. They are looking to spread their geographical footprint across India and in particular the North-East. This way they feel they could help food business community to test their food products in their laboratories anywhere in India.