India puts new focus on food safety

Cargill is supporting an industry-led effort to educate consumers and street food vendors on safe handling practices 

By Amanda Halbersma October 28, 2015

India is trending younger and more mobile, with 65 percent of the population below the age of 35, a strong urban middle class, and increasing consumption levels. For the changing population, eating food away from home is becoming more common.

Coupled with the fact that global food systems are getting more complex - delivering food from many sources, sometimes over great distances – the importance of food safety has become more prominent on the national stage.

A new nationwide food safety awareness campaign that targets street food vendors, consumers and small- to medium-sized businesses, hopes to have a widespread impact in the country of 1.25 billion.

Cargill, along with the industry association Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), introduced the program in July at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. Known as SKA, for Surakshit Khadya Abhiyan™ (which means Safe Food Campaign), the program complements the government’s consumer awareness program, Jago Grahak Jago, which has focused mainly on consumer protections.

Cargill India is participating in the campaign as an industry partner, along with CII and other stakeholders, including the Voluntary Organization in Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) and the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), which advocates for the livelihoods of the millions in the profession.

“Our intent is to bring all of the stakeholders together -- consumers, food companies and street food vendors -- to focus on food safety. Through education, we hope to strengthen nationwide action on safe and hygienic food for all,” Siraj Chaudhry, chairman of Cargill India.

A website, Facebook page, twitter account and radio spots are being created to share information on the different roles people can play in limiting food safety risks.

Organizers also are hitting the streets. Performances of street plays, or skits, will demonstrate best practices. Participants in four-kilometer walkathons are invited to physically show support and help spread the messages wearing branded T-shirts. About 3,000 students joined Cargill employees for a walkathon event in Delhi in October. Similar events will be held in Kolkata, Bangalore, Mumbai and other cities in the coming months.

The campaign will promote awareness of food label information, appropriate food storage conditions and related food handling practices. Street vendor training and professional courses also will be key components of the campaign, as well as seminars and workshops for participants across the food supply chain. 

Cargill will contribute to advocacy programs and walkathons and also help its industry and government partners design appropriate sector-specific standards to mitigate risk in food supply chains. 

“Cargill’s dedication to nourishing people and providing high-quality, safe food is a global effort,” Chaudhry said. “We are glad to join hands with CII as National Industry Partner and be a catalyst to improve food safety awareness in the country, as well as drive the agenda of ‘safe food as everyone’s right’ through the Surakshit Khadya Abhiyan.”