As India prepares to host the international Commonwealth Games this fall, the country is ramping up its food safety standards.  A program called the “Safe Food Destination” has begun educating local restaurants and vendors about modern food safety standards and techniques.

Restaurants can register with the organization and have their employees taught about safe food preparation techniques, how to purchase safe food, and other ways to minimize the risk of illness for their customers. The Safe Food Destination program will require each establishment to score a minimum of 40 percent on an evaluation in order to receive a certificate stating its status as a “Safe Food Destination.” They will be subject to subsequent tests with the idea being that their scores will improve with every evaluation. 

indian-street-food-featured.jpgA score of 75 percent will reward the restaurant with a silver certificate, while an 85 percent garners a golden one. Establishments scoring 95 percent or higher will receive a platinum certificate. The organization will investigate illnesses associated with member restaurants. If an establishment is found guilty of sickening a client, its registration and certificate will be revoked.

NLB Pantulu, the vice president of operations at TQS Global Management System, spoke about the new program:  “For the first time in India, we have brought consumer insurance as in terms of limited claims towards any mishap or illness arising out of food safety issues in TQS registered SFD outlets,” he said. “The consumer is at peace of mind as he is insured against any health injury arising out of food borne disease. At the same time the restaurant stakeholder is also confident as his liabilities are limited,” he told DNA India, a local newspaper.

Street vendors are a very popular lunch and dinner venue in New Delhi, and the Safe Food Destination program has adapted a special section of the initiative designed for these vendors. 

“We have a modern vending cart for street vendors that is much safer to use. We are working on further guidelines in this matter,” says Pantulu.

The Commonwealth Games are the third largest athletic sporting event, after the Olympics and the Asian Games. The pre-game tradition even includes the “Queen’s Baton Relay,” an international relay strikingly similar to that of the Olympic torch. 

Teams from 54 nations participate in the games, all but two of which were once colonies or commonwealths of the British Empire. These nations include twenty African countries, seven nations from the Americas, fourteen from Asia, fifteen from the Carribean, ten from Europe, and thirteen Oceanic nations.

India is playing host to the games this fall, and expects millions of visitors to the capital city, New Dheli. As with the world cup, the influx of visitors raise questions about the safety of the local food they will consume.

“There has been a lot of noise over food safety during [the Commonwealth Games]. We aim to do something concrete so that foreign tourists get international standards in food safety and hygiene during the games,” said Pantulu.

Sporting festivals give special incentive to host nations to improve food safety, in part by the fact that suddenly every aspect of the country is set on an international stage. Earlier this summer in South Africa at the FIFA World Cup, ninety volunteers were sickened with food poisoning.

Earlier this summer, Food Safety News reported on a separate food safety accreditation system in India. That program was handed down by the Indian Food Safety and Standard Authority and received very little interest. 

The newer program–Safe Food Destination–is run independent of the Indian Food Safety and Standards Authority, by the TQS Global Management System, an independent consulting firm. The Food Safety And Standards Authority appears to be delighted with the new program, especially since India is playing host to the Commonwealth Games this October.  DNA India reports that hundreds of establishments have already signed up.

A unique part of the Safe Food Destination program is the plan to name one restaurant Food Ambassador of India before the games begin.  TQS Global Management System will subject the top ten establishments to an evaluation by an independent body, the restaurant scoring highest will be granted the prestigious honor and recognition that comes with holding this title.