The COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent restrictions on movement has led to several small food businesses mushrooming in India. In Kerala, Several Non-Resident Malayalees who returned to their home town due to the pandemic, or those who have lost their jobs have started home food businesses in order to make a living. Women homemakers and home-based cooks have begun selling food – from biriyani to confectionaries – during this time.
However, those establishments preparing and selling food without a license or a registration could incur a fine of Rs 5 lakh or even up to six months in jail. While rules regarding licensing and registration of food enterprises were issued back in 2011 under the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Business) Regulation, these were brought back to focus during the lockdown.
In Kerala, the number of licenses and registrations for a basic licence under the FSSAI for running small food businesses reportedly increased to 1,950 in July this year from 1,500 in the beginning of the year. Since March 2020, at least 2,300 such registrations have been recorded in the FSSAI site. The license and registration are issued from the district office of the Commissionerate of Food Safety in Kerala, after inspection of the application and the business by food safety inspectors and other authorities.
As per the FSSAI rules that apply nationwide, if the food enterprise sees sales of Rs 12 lakh or more per month, then the unit has to have a license. However, if it sees sales lower than this sum, then the unit has to be registered with the State Commissioner of Food Safety. Those running smaller hotels, home based take-aways, street stalls and bakeries will have to apply for a basic food safety registration.
The application can be filed online, on the FSSAI site. The site also has detailed FAQs on how to apply and where to check the status of the application. To apply, the owner of the enterprise must furnish basic personal details as well as those of the establishment, and also upload a passport size photo and an ID proof.
Consumers can also submit complaints against food establishments on the site. If a complaint is raised, then food safety inspectors and other authorities will inspect the concerned enterprise, and levy appropriate fines.
If the enterprise is found to be serving adulterated food, then it could be liable to a fine and jail term depending on the nature of the crime. If enterprises are selling food without labels, then they can attract a fine of upto Rs 3 lakh. If the enterprise is found to be selling poor quality food with sub-standard ingredients, then the owners can attract a fine of upto Rs 5 lakh.