A couple of days after the Prime Minister announced the nationwide lockdown, I stepped out to buy a few groceries. I stopped at a small dairy to buy paneer, where I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the shopkeeper put on a pair of disposable plastic gloves before handling my food, and got rid of them before dealing with the next customer. I also noticed that he took care to ensure that, even accidentally, no food touched any unprotected surface.
My experience at the dairy, along with other experiences, leads me to believe that this epidemic is going to result in food safety and hygiene being a much higher priority for Indians, than it was before. I believe that this new importance to food safety is going to result in major changes in the food industry.
The restaurant industry, both dining in and delivery, is one industry which will probably be very different going forward. As this article in the Economic Times notes, Indians, who are a notoriously price-sensitive, are likely to give more importance to eating out at, and ordering in from, outlets that have a well trained staff and good safety and hygiene practises, even if it costs a bit more. While this will probably result in food becoming more expensive, and many restaurants going out of business, food outlets are going to be forced into adopting and maintaining better food safety practises just to stay open.
Storage and sale of meat and fish is another industry that is likely to see a fair bit of change. I believe that the coronavirus epidemic is likely to make more people buy their meat and fish from stores with good cold storage facilities, and where the staff is trained in hygienic food handling practises. In fact, the Chairman of the FSSAI, Mr. Pawan Agarwal, said that the FSSAI has plans to leverage this newfound awareness to improve the hygiene in shops selling meat and fish. It is not clear how the FSSAI plans to do this with it’s limited staff and budget, but the intention is
The Coronavirus epidemic has pushed India to the brink of a recession and has shut the country down for the foreseeable future. However, it has also made people pay a lot more attention to basic food safety and hygiene issues, that were earlier either not given too much importance, or ignored altogether. This new awareness will hopefully result in lasting positive changes to food safety practices in India.