The coronavirus lockdown saw the start of many new home kitchens and homemade food delivery services in India. As the lockdown led to considerable job loss and the hospitality industry took one of the biggest hits, many turned to online catering and food delivery to cater to the rising demand for home-delivered food amid the lockdown.
But it seems the lucky run has come to an end. The State Food Safety Department has recently issued a fine of Rs 5 lakh and even six months jail time for unregistered home kitchens selling home-cooked meals without a licence. The rules are as per the norms of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Homemade food catering and delivery has become a popular mode of business amid the lockdown. With restaurants shutting down and a majority of people stuck at home for long periods, online food delivery has become the preferred alternative. And with prolonged days at home, many have been opting for local, cheap and home-cooked food delivered to their doorsteps, giving rise to a number of such makeshift home kitchens.
The problem, however, is with the lack of safety guidelines and precautions carried out by the home cooks. According to FSSAI rules, any restaurant doing business worth Rs 12 lakh needs a licence. Eateries earning less than that need registration. As per a report in The Times of India, however, only 2300 registration applications have been received since March, despite thousands of new eateries, coffee and juice bards opening up amid the pandemic.
In an informal setup such as a home kitchen, there is no way for customers or for food safety regulators to find out if safety standards were being followed in terms of cooking procedures, products used, and other aspects.
Even as the hospitality sector across the world has faced massive losses, food delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato have fared the pandemic well. In a recent social media post in October, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal claimed that business was back to pre-Covid-19 pandemic times. Swiggy has also reported orders at 85 percent.