TITLE: ROLE OF FOOD BUSINESS OPERATORS IN FOOD SAFETY
Food Business Operators (FBO) as per FSSA 2006 have been defined as any
undertaking, whether private or public, for profit or not, carrying out any of the activities
related to any stage of manufacture, processing, packaging, storage, transportation,
distribution of food, imports and including food services, sale of food or food ingredients.
They have multitude of role and responsibilities towards achieving food safety in their
business. At the same time they face certain challenges too. This chapter briefly
describes their duties as given in the Act along with certain roadblocks faced by them
Key words: food business operators, food safety, inspections, licensing,
ROLE OF FOOD BUSINESS OPERATORS IN FOOD SAFETY
Indian society has witnessed a paradigm shift in the food culture along with
industrialization and globalization. There has been a marked increase in eating out
culture in all socioeconomic classes. The underlying driving force is the higher incomes,
greater number of nuclear families and double income households and working women
and urbanization. As per Indian Food Services Report 2013 “the continuously evolving
economy, societal, and demographic changes have reshaped the Indian eating behavior
and style. The promulgation of Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA 2006) in India has
been done to ensure supply of safe and wholesome food across the country. A Food
Business Operator (FBO) is defined as any undertaking, whether private or public, for
profit or not, carrying out any of the activities related to any stage of manufacture,
processing, packaging, storage, transportation, distribution of food, imports and
including food services, sale of food or food ingredients. Examples of different
categories of FBOs are given in Box 1. Under the eating establishments the law is
applicable to all food business restaurants; small and medium eating joints, food served
in retail outlets; fresh extracted juice and beverages shops/ outlet; dispensing outlets,
base kitchens, confectionary, bakery and sweet shop serving unlabelled pre-packaged
or loose sweets/baked products/confectionary products and frozen desserts. Earlier the
person manning these food businesses was termed as a vendor. However under the
FSSA 2006 any person or any firm or company which is involved with the business of
food is a Food Business Operator (FBO).
Responsibilities of FBO
An FBO who is accountable for food safety in his business at any stage interacts with
various agencies (figure 1). As per FSSA 2006, no food business can be carried out
without obtaining a license or a registration. The FBOs have been categorized in three
categories the one who are petty food business operators and whose annual turnover is
less than Rs. 12 Lacs, need to obtain a registration certificate as they are covered under
the registration provision. For others whose annual turnover is more than Rs. 12 Lacs,
have to obtain a license either under the state licensing authority or from the central
licensing authority, depending upon the criteria based on the nature and volume of the
business. It is of utmost importance for the FBO to either register or obtain a license
before initiating any food business.
On receipt of a license/ registration it is the responsibility of FBO to get it displayed at a
prominent place in the premises of eating establishment. At any point of time licensing
authority can suspend or cancel license if the FBO is found not complying with the
conditions of license. In case an FBO is carrying food business without valid license he
is liable with imprisonment up to six months and also with a fine up to Rs. 5 lac.
The law entrusts the responsibility on FBO to follow general hygienic and sanitary
practices irrespective of the nature of business via food manufacturer
/processor/handler/ distributor/ transporter and service provider of food articles. These
encompass observation of certain norms regarding location of premises, general
manufacturing and hygienic practices etc. Few guidelines to be followed by FBOs are
1. Location of business in a sanitary place and free from filthy surroundings and
shall maintain overall hygienic environment. The premises shall be clean,
adequately lighted and ventilated and sufficient free space for movement. The
layout of the food establishment shall be such that food preparation /
manufacturing process are not subject to cross-contamination from viz. receiving,
preprocessing (viz. packaging, dishing / portioning of ready-to-eat food). The
area occupied by machinery shall not be more than 50% of the manufacturing
2. Use of potable water, efficient drainage system and adequate provisions for
disposal of refuse.
3. Refrain persons suffering from infectious diseases to work and to prohibit eating,
chewing, smoking, spitting and nose blowing by food handlers within the
premises. The FBO shall develop a system, whereby any person so affected,
shall immediately report illness or symptoms of illness to the management. As a
routine, medical examination of a food handler shall be carried out apart from
the periodic checkups, if clinically or epidemiologically indicated. Arrangements
shall be made to get the food handlers / employees of the establishment
medically examined once in a year to ensure that they are free from any
infectious, contagious and other communicable diseases. A record of these
examinations signed by a registered medical practitioner shall be maintained for
inspection purpose. The staff shall be compulsorily inoculated against the enteric
group of diseases once a year and a record towards that shall be kept for
4. Protect food from contamination during storage and transportation. Equipment
and utensils used in the preparation of food shall be kept at all times in good
order and repair and in a clean and sanitary condition.
5. All raw materials, food additives and ingredients, wherever applicable shall
conform to all the regulations and standards laid down under the Act.
6. No FBO shall manufacture, store, sell or distribute any article of food which is
unsafe/misbranded/substandard or contains extraneous matter or in violation of
any other provision.
7. A detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be developed for proper
management which in turn would help in identifying any problem at exact point,
so the course of damage control would be faster. The FBOs shall ensure that
technical managers and supervisors have appropriate qualifications, adequate
knowledge and skills on food hygiene principles and practices to be able which
shall enable them to ensure food safety and quality of its products, judge food
hazards, take appropriate preventive and corrective action, and to ensure
effective monitoring and supervision.
8. A system for food testing shall be ensured by the FBO either through an in-house
laboratory or through an accredited laboratory.
9. A periodic audit of the whole system according to the SOP be done to find out
any fault / gap in the system. Appropriate records of food processing /
preparation, production / cooking, storage, distribution, service, food quality,
laboratory test results, cleaning and sanitation, pest control and product recall
shall be kept and retained for a period of one year or the shelf-life of the product,
whichever is more.
10.The FBOs shall ensure that visitors to its food manufacturing, cooking,
preparation, storage or handling areas must wherever appropriate, wear
protective clothing, footwear and adhere to the other personal hygiene provisions
envisaged in this section.
The food safety act on issuing a license/ registration imposes that it will be the duty of
FBO to ensure that the articles of food satisfy the food safety requirements at all stages
of production, distribution and storage. The corollary to this is that in case of any
problem the onus of responsibility rests with the person holding the licenses. Hence,
running a food business entails huge responsibility. Nevertheless the FBOs are
business men who run it for profit. Many times food business is run from old
constructions which need major repairs. This is often neglected by them to save on the
cost factor. They ignore to maintain the kitchens and functioning area as per the laid
guidelines. The reasons for this are dual. Those FBOs who are not educated are often
not aware of these guidelines or their relevance in ensuring safety and quality of food.
Some of them feign ignorance to save money. They allow short cuts when it comes to
ensuring safe disposal of waste, pest management, cleaning of drains in premises,
maintenance of equipment.
Another difficult task is management of food handlers. FBOs have to constantly mange
issues related to food handlers viz. salary, leave, addictions, welfare etc. They have to
handle food handlers who are often uneducated amateur young boys of low
socioeconomic status migrated from villages to cities in search of work and shelter. To
handle this age group of boys/ men is a herculean task. Most of times, food handlers
don’t listen to / follow advice like washing of hands, bathing, paring of nails, combing of
hair etc They are smart enough to escape this being noticed by FBOs.
The FBOs value and respect their customers as the success of their business has a
linear relation with customer satisfaction. However, their clients comprise of people of
different socio economic status. They have to keep everyone happy which is not an
easy task. Some want quality and are ready to pay for it where as others want
everything at minimal price even at the cost of food safety. With an endeavor to make all
clients happy the focus of FBOs is more on taste and presentation.Usually, food safety
takes a back seat. Sometimes they sell leftover or stale unsafe food to avoid loss to
business through wastage. As per the regulations it is important for FBOs to display
their mobile numbers at the business place. This can help the clients as they can call
and report to him directly about the problem if required. By displaying and sharing his
contact number the FBO conveys his involvement and commitment towards the clients.
However, even this practice is not adhered to avoid any complaints from the customers.
Some cost saving measures used commonly by FBOs are to employ less number of
workers or go for multitasking by deputing the food handlers for maintenance of
premises. This compromises food safety due to opportunity cost principle. To save
money they also buy substandard items at subsidized cost; they even adopt incorrect
procedures for cleaning of utensils, overload refrigerators. They avoid expenditure on
maintenance of premises. One way to save on expenses is avoiding major repairs in
kitchen. This also affects food safety adversely.
The way forward
The FBOs in our country do not receive any formal training on food safety and hygiene.
Their knowledge about the existence and implementation of new law is restricted only to
getting licensed/ registered. Some of them gain experience by working as an employee
in food business establishment and then start their own eating joint. Most of the FBOs
have some features in common - business motive, self-praise and a confrontationist
Food Business Operator
Wholesalers for raw
approach towards the government enforcement authorities. Nevertheless, the objective
of implementation of FSSA 2006 is dual -- both to educate the FBOs and to improve the
food safety standards. Only penalizing the FBOs will defeat the purpose of food safety.
Education and awareness about food safety to FBOs and food handlers is one main
difference between this law and previous Act (PFA ). Training of FBOs can be effective
in reducing food safety problem by implementation of realistic food safety practices
within the workplace. If FBOs were trained to advanced levels, they would then provide
basic training for food handlers in-house. Much of the non-compliance from the side of
the FBOs largely arise from a lack of awareness about the current rules & regulations
and standards. Therefore, there is an urgent need to increase the awareness among
FBOs to get their samples tested at least once in six months. With the ever-expanding
food processing industry, the government also needs to keep pace and increase the
manpower to cope with the increasing demand. The laws and associated penalties
need to be implemented more stringently.
Figure 1: Interface of Food Business Operators with stakeholders
1. Training manual for food safety regulators. FSSAI. 2010
Box 1: Categories of FBO under FSSA 2006
Categories of FBO
1. Dairy units including milk chilling units equipped to handle or process
2. Vegetable oil processing units and units producing vegetable oil by the process of solvent extraction and refineries including oil expeller unit
3. Slaughtering units
4. Meat processing units
5. All food processing units other than mentioned above including relabellers & repackers
6. 100 % Export Oriented Units
7. Importers importing food items including food ingredients and additives for commercial use
8. Food business operators manufacturing any article of food containing ingredients or substances or using technologies or processes or combination thereof
whose safety has not been established through these regulations or which do not have a history of safe use or food containing ingredients which are being
introduced for the first time into the country.
15.Dhabha or any other food vending establishment
19.Transporter of food (having a number of specialized vehicles like insulated refrigerated van/ wagon, milk tankers etc.)
22.Food Catering services in establishments and units under Central Government Agencies like Railways, Air and Airport, Seaport, Defence etc.