FSSAI wants calorie count on restaurant menus, plans risk management system; here’s what businesses think

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: FSSAI will also be launching the concept of ‘Perpetual License’ “so that no renewal of the license would be necessary for the industry,” its CEO Arun Singhal said on Wednesday.

FSSAI's CEO Arun Singhal said that serving size along with the calorific information of the serving will be mentioned on the restaurants’ menus from January next year.

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: Food safety regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is mulling to have a risk management system in place for the domestic businesses in the food sector to keep in check arbitrary inspection by food inspectors. FSSAI CEO Arun Singhal at a FICCI event on Wednesday said that a risk management system is being planned for the domestic sector akin to the system in place for imported products with respect to sampling and inspection of food products.

“This will include the product details, manufacturer profile, compliance reports to reduce the incidence of unnecessary inspection by food and safety inspectors,” Singhal said. The purpose of risk management as a process is to essentially figure out potential issues in a business growth before they occur in order to plan and implement the activities to handle the risk as required across the life of a product or a project. The likely move by FSSAI is expected to ease doing business for small businesses in the sector.

“The concept of risk management system in food basically categorises businesses as per different metrics around food safety concerns such as food that are at high risk of being spoiled such as meat and meat products while others like cereals and food grains are at low risk if stored properly. Also, whether the business is into manufacturing food or transporting or storing it is another metric. Based on such metrics and others, a call is taken for inspection,” Pawan Agarwal, Former CEO, FSSAI told Financial Express Online. 

Agarwal noted that while currently in many cases inspection is done in an arbitrary manner but once there is a digital interface then, “inspectors won’t even know in advance where they have to inspect. They will not have the liberty to choose where to inspect. The digital system will decide which businesses to inspect. Hence, the inspection load on businesses will come down and they won’t have to be unnecessarily worried. This will lead to better ease of doing business. Earlier the IT platform of FSSAI called the Food Licensing and Registration System (FLRS), which was changed to Food Compliance System, was confined to giving licenses and registration.”

Also read: $158 billion finance gap for India’s 15M women MSMEs, 66% don’t have bank account: IFC’s Qamar Saleem

Singhal also announced that FSSAI will be launching the concept of ‘Perpetual License’ “so that no renewal of the license would be necessary for the industry,” he said.

Small businesses, however, are looking at the involved procedures for the planned risk management system and perpetual license to ensure that it doesn’t lead to rigidity in their operations and make doing business challenging. Subodh Jindal who runs a Delhi-based food processing company called Excelsior Food & Chemical Industries and is also the President of All India Food Processors’ Association (AIFPA) said the government should not end up putting additional compliance on manufacturers particularly MSMEs with the new system.

“We have to wait for the details for the risk management system before being able to make any comments or suggestions. We hope it will help to streamline the food safety process without imposing additional procedures or documentation on the manufacturers, particularly the MSME sector,” Jindal told Financial Express Online.

Comments from FSSAI for this story seeking details on the risk management system and perpetual licenses weren’t immediately available.

FSSAI’s Singhal also added that there would be serving size along with the calorific information of the serving mentioned on the restaurants’ menus from January next year. Also, FSSAI will soon launch the Vegan logo as there is a growing number of people who are vegans while there was no certification available for vegan foods so far. However, restaurants are only convinced of the vegan logo initiative.

“Putting calorific value is not going to be easy for restaurants as many a times dishes are customised as per customer’s requirement. For example, people would want less cream in butter chicken. This won’t be a practical solution. Deriving the calorific value of customised food on spot would increase the cost that would be passed on to the customers. On the other hand, serving size is anyways mentioned in menus but you cannot specifically put the number of ingredients in case the regulator is looking at it from that perspective, after all, we are running an experiential business and not a factory. Having a vegan logo is not a bad move as many people are moving towards vegan food,” Anurag Katriar, Founder & Managing Director, Indigo Hospitality, and Past President, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) told Financial Express Online.

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The plan to mandate restaurant menu cards with nutrition details appears to have conceptual and feasibility difficulties added Jindal. “When a person orders Dal Makhani, one knows his/her need. Moreover, restaurant guests often give instant instructions to make a dish to their choice and taste and chefs often prepare specialities. A pre-fixed menu nutrition approach may not be feasible.”

Nonetheless, here also, the process of implementation has to be well thought out with guidelines. Sagar Daryani, CEO and Co-founder, Wow! Momo Foods told Financial Express Online, “It has to be a hand-in-hand thing with the department (FSSAI) and the government. This won’t commercially benefit restaurants but will bring trust factor for brands among customers as, during Covid, customers are willing to trust brands that have hygiene as their biggest priority. In that way, it will lead to better goodwill and perhaps more revenue.”

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