When it comes to health of the consumer, food safety in food processing units (FPU) remains to be a major issue and therefore is directly regulated by the government. This is because a lot of any food product manufactured under unhygienic or unsanitary conditions can lead to food poisoning-related problems in a large population.
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. The act involves various acts and orders that handles food related issues in various Ministries and Departments. FSSAI regulates the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import of wholesome food for human consumption to ensure safety.
To ensure food safety, Food Processing Units must follow Food Safety Management System (FSMS). This system is based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. The HACCP plan controls hazard actively in the complete chain from food production till its consumption.
Any food business operator (FBO) seeking license under FSS (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations 2011 should have a well-drafted FSMS plan, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) along with Good Hygiene Practices (GHP). These rules apply to FBO, petty food operators and street food vendors involved in manufacturing, processing, packaging, storage and distribution of milk, milk products, slaughter house, meat processing, etc. as well as catering.
The documents to be presented at the time of applying for FSSAI license from the licensing authority includes:
- Completed application form duly-signed by the owner/s along with their ID proofs
- Blueprint/layout plan with dimensions of processing unit
- List of directors/proprietor with full contact details
- List of equipment and machines installed along with list of food category
- Authority letter verifying the nominee
- Proof showing possession of premises (sale deed/ rent agreement/ electricity)
- Partnership deed, etc.
FSSAI ensures that the consumers do not face any problem due to unhygienic or unsafe food items.
They have laid down several obligations for food manufacturers and sellers that they have to follow such as:
- All food processing units should be located away from the industries emitting harmful gases and chemicals.
- It should have adequate drainage and waste disposal facility.
- Equipment used in a food processing unit should be clean, sterilized and made of non-corrosive material.
- They should have a proper storage, labeling and placement facility.
- The staff working in a FPU should wear clean aprons, head covers, footwear, gloves and use hand-wash before handling any food product. If suffering from any illness the person should avoid food handling.
- The unit should be well-equipped with regularly tested potable water supply, pest control system and clean transportation facilities.
- They should maintain daily records of receiving, sales and storage.
- Personnel facilities are of major importance as the food handlers remains in constant contact with the food. Covered trash bins should be used.
- The food establishment area should be well-lit with covered lights. The air quality and ventilation system should be designed and constructed in such a way so that air does not flow from the contaminated area to the clean area.
- Cross contamination is one of the most common cause of food poisoning. Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian food products should be stored in separate refrigerators in clean packed containers.
- No spraying should be done, instead fly swats/ flaps should be used to kill flies getting into the premises.
- No vessel, container or equipment used should contain metallic contaminants that are injurious to health.
Food processing units must take care of the following parameters to avoid spoilage of food:
- Foreign matter such as hair, stapler, fabric, plastic, metal or glass pieces
- Lack of proper drainage with back-flow slope lead to pest entry.
- Non-food grade equipment corrosive or migrating in nature should not be used.
- Improper handling and processing can lead to food safety issues.
- Chemical residues can enter food from equipment or utensil sanitation operations.
- Poor sanitary conditions not as per the guidelines of either historical data or validation.
- Raw materials selection should be based on strict frequent scientific sampling.
- Additive such as essence or flavor should be added only in required amount.
- Water should be potable of confirmed specification as per IS 10500:2012.
- Improper storage without proper segregation or ventilation can spoil food faster.
- Injured or sick staff with cough, cold or open wounds should not work in a food facility.
- Improper segregation can lead to food intoxication as certain products may contain allergens.
- Temperature and humidity (should be <65%) are important factors for food safety.
- Time designated for shelf-life should be kept in mind while storing food products.
- Pest contamination can spread from urine, fecal matter of rodents, pests, reptiles, nocturnal animals and birds.
- Improper waste disposal can breed pest and micro-organisms