THE MAHARASHTRA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued stop business notices to 113 food establishments in Mumbai that deliver food through e-commerce portals and online aggregators, after finding they violated norms under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. In addition, a showcause notice has been issued to four food aggregator portals — Swiggy, Zomato, Food Panda, and Uber Eats — who delivered food from these outlets.
“The FDA survey has revealed that the establishments of food processing working through these online app and websites worked in unhealthy conditions. There were several violations found,” said FDA Commissioner Pallavi Darade. The food delivery business has spiked with people preferring to order food in the comfort of their homes, she added.
Between September 21 and October 1, the FDA inspected 347 outlets that home-delivered food through online aggregators. The food inspectors found that at least 113 establishments were working without the requisite licence or registration under the Food Safety and Standards Act. Several were also found adopting unhygienic working conditions.
Inquiry showed that these 113 outlets were operating business through portals like Swiggy, Zomato, Food Panda and Uber Eats. At least 85 outlets were attached with Swiggy, 50 with Zomato, three with Food Panda and two with Uber Eats.
While the 113 food outlets have been issued stop business notice with immediate effect under Section 14 of Food Safety and Standards Act, the four portals were issued showcause notices. Officials with FDA said once they receive responses from the portals, further action will be taken.
In an email response to The Indian Express, a Swiggy spokesperson said, “Over the last two months, we have delisted hundreds of restaurants that were not compliant to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulations or have poor customer ratings, while simultaneously assisting many restaurants to procure their licenses through our FSSAI Assist Program. Honouring the deadline of September 30, we have completed the delisting of those restaurants which were unable to procure their license or an acknowledgment.” The spokesperson added that as on October 1, all restaurants catering to Swiggy had FSSAI license.
“Separately, Swiggy has been working with Equinox Labs, a reputed food-audit firm accredited by FSSAI/ NABL on food hygiene audits that are conducted at restaurants, to ensure food prepared is in accordance with hygiene standards,” the spokesperson said.
FDA Joint Commissioner (Food) Shailesh Aadhav said most food outlets inspected in Mumbai and found flouting norms were small scale businesses focussed on food delivery through portals. “In most, we found cleanliness of cooking utensils and equipment was not maintained. Those cooking food were also not maintaining personal hygiene.”
A spokesperson from Uber Eats said that “the business is evolving every day and entities are regularly checked and removed from the platform”. “Providing access to reliable food for consumers is at the heart of our business and we are committed to raising awareness about food safety standards. We are working closely with the governing authorities to help them achieve their objective of ensuring good quality and safe food,” the spokesperson added.
An official from Zomato working in the merchant section said that they are not aware of receiving any showcause notice. Emails sent by The Indian Express to Zomato and Food Panda elicited no response.