CHENNAI:If you were wondering what was next after Maggi’s encounter with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), consider that it could be the harmless jar of dessert you pick up from the home baker across your street. Chennai is home to around 100 serious bakers whose cakes, cupcakes and other goodies have a loyal following and only over the past few months, have they been scrambling to register with the FSSAI. “The FSSAI made it compulsory earlier in the year and news has been spreading rapidly. This is a good move as consumers can be sure of hygenically-made products now,” says KP Balakumar, one of the founders of the 40,000 plus member-strong Facebook page Home Bakers Guild. “I got my licenses only when I opened an establishment,” says Shalini Padmanabhan of Piece of Cake, adding, “while I was baking at home till around 2009, we did not need all this.”
Today, every home baker is required to contact their local Food Safety Officer, submit the required documentation and wait for a surprise visit from the authorities. “They check your kitchen for cleanliness, take photos of your space and even check your packaging,” says Cindana Manickavel, who sells dessert jars under the brand Sugar Monkey. “I had a ‘Best Before’ printed on my label and they insisted I add a ‘Consume Immediately Once Opened’ as well,” says Manickavel, who got her FSSAI number two months ago. “I am hoping to supply to Nuts N Spices, Mercado and Gormei Market soon, and even they have started insisting on being registered,” she points out.
Luckily, the good news is that the surprise checks are not a one-time thing. The officers are liable to visit you and try samples at random. “I got my number two years ago and one is supposed to renew it every year,” says home baker Sara Koshy, who also conducts classes on the same. While most bakers like that the FSSAI number adds a hygiene stamp to their products, not everyone is thrilled with the documentation. “It takes a while before you can figure out what ward you fall under, etc. I suggest contacting an agent who can walk you through the process,” says popular home chef Tasneem Ayub.
And it’s not just those who sell from home that need to be registered. “Even if you are just retailing from a counter, the producer and the seller need to have their licenses,” says Arul Futnani, who sells home made products at his restaurant The Farm on OMR. “We started in 2011 and back then it was not a criterion. But now we insist on it,” says Deepa Sekar, co-founder of By Hand, From The Heart, a bi-annual artisanal farmers market. The 16th edition this event, set to take place on August 7-8, is a must visit if you’re a fan of homemade foods and for the past two years, they have made it a criteria for bakers to possess an FSSAI registration if they wish to participate. “We will insist on it for our next bake sale in 2016,” says KP Balakumar of the Home Bakers Guild.