Due to growing demand in online food retailing and growing concerns about the standard, nutrition and hygiene of food being sold over the internet and specially through social media has shaken the Punjab Food Authority (PFA), PFA has now taken measures to develop rules for online retailers.
Some online retailers are not even established businesses, some individuals sell home cooked food online without having a proper food license or even a proper business address. These individuals use social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to promote their food items with colorful images and videos which creates orders for them. In order to regulate these individuals as well as companies or restaurants, Noorul Amin Mengal DG PFA has directed its staff to formulate a policy which brings online food retailers and suppliers under the law, PFA has drafted a guideline for online food businesses to follow and it will be rolling out in the Newspapers during this week.
Overview of the Guideline
According to the guideline disseminated by PFA, people who sell home cooked or baked food must get medical certificates for cooking and handling of food and all food items must be labeled according to Punjab Pure Food Rules 2017.
Online consumers have serious concerns about the food being sold online meets the criteria of quality or not. Consumers don’t know where the food was cooked for them and whether the person cooked food for them is infected or not.
PFA’s guideline further says the labeling of food must include ingredients, manufacture and expiry date, food additive codes, complete business address, item weight and handling/storage instructions. PFA representatives said this policy will help regulate the food retailers and remove various concerns, it will also help to bring in quality and hygienic food online.
They further explained that it will be mandatory for all food suppliers online to get licensed from PFA and use food grade packing material. The packing material used by many online food sellers are of lowest quality sometimes not dedicated for food packing. PFA said that most of the complaints were regarding packing material used by the sellers, that is why PFA has made it mandatory to use food graded packing material.
Food when packed, becomes in direct contact with the packing material, so it has to be of very good quality and free from any contaminants. Under graded containers or recycled packing material has a potential to carry harm which can be easily transferred to food items packed in them and finally for consumers it can be the cause for many harmful diseases. The officials said, under the section 15 of PFA Act, 2011 every food supplier is required to get a license to operate a food business which can be renewed annually.
DG PFA also made it clear that, all food businesses are bound to obtain license for PFA, after July 5, 2017 PFA will start cracking down on the people failed to follow the directions.