The luxury of ordering food online is one Punjab is looking to make safer with new guidelines aimed at food delivery services.
Delivery companies including Swiggy, Uber Eats and Zomato are required to display the hygiene ratings of eateries they are associated with as a prerequisite for delivering food from them. “The onus of ensuring the quality of food and the hygienic condition under which food is prepared has shifted to the intermediate food delivery mechanism,” the state’s Food and Drug Administration Commissioner K. S. Pannu has said. As such, State Health Minister Brahm Mohindra instructed “no online food order is to be delivered in the state without hygiene rating.”
The new guidelines are important in a country where food poisoning is the second biggest cause of infectious disease outbreaks. The rapid growth of the food delivery startup industry in India means ensuring they are involved in enforcing hygiene standards is of vital importance. The industry is expected to reap profits of US$7,092 million this year according to Statista. By 2023, the industry will enjoy a market volume of $10,363 million – translating to an annual growth of 9.9 percent.
While the food delivery industry can be more convenient for consumers, particularly in urban areas, it can be bad for health as a number of instances have showed. In October last year, the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration issued notices to FoodPanda, Swiggy, UberEats, and Zomato, rebuking them for affiliations with unhygienic eateries.
Earlier that year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said forty percent of eateries listed by delivery services did not have their licenses and registrations verified. In the example of Zomato, February saw it revealed 10,000 restaurants the service was tied up with met hygiene standards. However, that represented just eighty percent of the total number of restaurants it was tied up with despite new FSSAI guidelines issued the previous December.
The steps taken in Punjab to ensure compliance with hygiene standards must be adopted at a pan-Indian level. Food poisoning has the potential to turn into a major public health crisis. Vigilance by regulators and all stakeholders in the eatery industry is of vital importance.