The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hygiene high on the menu
- Quality standardisation absent at most eateries

The civic body launching a clean-kitchen drive is fine, but how does the customer know if a dining address does, indeed, Serve Safe Food' The need of the eating-out hour, therefore, is quality standardisation.

“We are trying to sensitise our members about cleanliness and basic hygiene through guidelines and workshops, while recommending self-regulation,” says Alok Chowdhury, secretary-general of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India.

But in the absence of a monitoring mechanism, consumers can only rely on trust. “Earlier, the Union department of tourism would approve new hotels and restaurants after sending an assessment team. That’s been discontinued,” laments association president S.K. Khullar.

The association has its set of dos and don’ts for 105 city-based member-restaurants, stressing the clean-kitchen factor — proper ventilation, pest catcher, exhaust, deep fridge, three-tier dishwashing, proper food handling and personal hygiene of the staff.

S.S. Kothari, proprietor of Bar-B-Q, admits “there’s no way to quantify quality-control” and convey that to the consumer.

The one formula for safe food is HACCP (Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points), an internationally recognised approach to anticipate and prevent food hazards (see box).

HACCP is the answer, agrees Chowdhury. “We are distributing HACCP manuals among our member-restaurants and working with the Geneva-headquartered quality auditors SGS Pvt Ltd to raise awareness on food safety in the trade,” he assures.

This global standard for food safety should be made mandatory at least for big establishments, feels Nitin Kohli of Ivory, at 22 Camac Street, the first standalone restaurant in town with an HACCP stamp.

“With Calcuttans eating out all the time, the least the restaurants with a booming business can do is introduce quality safety standards. They should do it on their own, and not just to avoid being caught out by the civic body,” says t2 food columnist Nondon Bagchi.

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