For the past year, the Central Government has been constantly taking steps to get the Indian economy back on track. Recently it launched the Food Safety Mitra Scheme which is aimed at supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The economy has suffered a lot due to the lockdowns of the previous year and this year. This has made the government come up with new ideas and innovative schemes to revive the small business sections which have suffered the most.
In this scheme introduced by the FSSAI, the SMEs are assisted by the authority through services related to licensing, compliances, ratings, hygiene, and training. Also, it will lead to a generation of ample jobs for the youth of the country in this sector. The government has aspired to lead the small food business section to the company on the path of growth through this initiative. Let us understand different aspects of this idea and how it might change the food sector in India?
What is the Need for the Food Safety Mitra Scheme?
In this section, we will understand why this scheme was needed in the first place. The main aim of the food safety scheme was to give directors or owners of small and medium-sized food businesses post lockdowns and help them adhere to the compliance norms of Food Safety laws.
The Food Safety Mitra (FSM) Scheme is an initiative to improve the safety standards of the food products sold by small businesses along with the hygiene conditions. Its objective is to ensure new employment opportunities for people with some work experience in the nutrition and food industry. The individuals who register themselves with this scheme will go through training supervised by FSSAI. They will also receive a certificate from FSSAI signifying their expertise. The training will enhance their skills to maintain safety and hygiene in the food business and will build skills. The new forte added in their skills will lead to the creation of more employment opportunities for them.
The scheme will also ensure that the food business becomes more transparent and the shady practices are eliminated. This includes the elimination of using adulterated products, contaminated food items, and prohibited products. The training program under the scheme will allow large size food vendors to choose from a trained group of service providers whare proficient in providing quality services. As the no. of trained person increase, the cost of the service will decrease. This will lower down the compliance-related costs bore by the organization and ease out the process of getting an FSSAI License.
Types of Programs Available
1. Digital Mitra
The training program to become a Digital Mitra will involve training on topics such as,
- New application filing procedure to obtain License or get FSSAI Registration.
- The digital Mitra will also be trained on correspondence concerning the queries that are raised online by the authorities.
- Application Procedure for filing modification of any existing FSSAI License of registration.
- Traning on annual returns or turnover filing for the company.
- Filing application to get the FSSAI certificate for a product or logo to be published on the label of a certified item for the Advertisement Claim.
- Filing appeal to revoke the registration given to Suspended Licenses.
2. Trainer Mitra
The Trainer Mitra program gets the following training:
- Conducting training sessions for supervisors of food safety compliance in the food products company.
- Conducts training sessions at the Eat Right Campus.
- Conducting training sessions for personnel appointed to maintain food safety in businesses or on-demand basis at any other place.
3. Hygiene Mitra
- A Hygiene Mitra is trained to audit and inspect the hygiene conditions of any food business outlet as per the prescribed guidelines of the FSSAI.
- They will give assistance to all the FBOs by directing them on ways of correct implementation of the hygiene regulations.
- They will be able to train the food product handlers and the supervisors of food safety in such organizations regarding hygienic and safe food management policies.
4. Campaign Ambassadors
The responsibility of a campus ambassador is to raise awareness among the customers regarding food safety norms. This is done by supervising campaigns on social media and other marketing platforms.
Code of Conduct under the Scheme
The code of conduct listed for a Food Safety Mitra gives the following norms to be followed:
The first norm listed on the FSM code of conduct given by FSSAI lists maintenance of integrity as a Food Safety Mitra. This can be done as:
- Observing due diligence in filing applications for vendors and conducting hygiene-related inspections.
- Advising and aiding the food businesses on the procedure, related regulatory requirements, and liabilities related to FSSAI provisions.
- Give advice to the food business operators on rectification of wrong declarations and actions that can be taken on non-compliance with the FSSAI guidelines.
- Charging only the amount specified by FSSAI for rendering service to the clients.
Transparency in Actions
The Food Safety Mitra must maintain transparency in his actions in the following ways:
- If there is any application filing done by any food vendor through the FSM, then the said FSM has to mention his/her unique identification number on every service rendered to the concerned vendor.
- If a vendor avails services, he must be informed about the services charges thoroughly and all the related receipts or acknowledgment of payments must be given to him.
- The FSMs are not officers of the FSSAI and should not pose as one. They are not allowed to use any logo or name of any officers without prior authorization.
All FSMs need to maintain the highest standards of quality while filing applications for FSSAI registration or certification on behalf of any vendor. They should also ensure that the quality of services rendered is of the highest standards. The applicant should be informed on every aspect of the service and the FSM should always make himself accessible to the applicant.
Fee Deposit to Enter the Scheme
If any individual wants to enter the FSM scheme then he/she must submit a security deposit of Rs. 5000. The amount is collected from the applicant at the time of certification. The said certificate of the training is valid for 2 years during which the applicant can render services related to FSSAI. In the situation where a Food Safety Mitra wants to exit the scheme, he/she will be refunded with the submitted security amount within a set time period.
Eligibility Criteria related to becoming FSM Mitra
For Training Mitra
The applicant must have a minimum of 7 years of work experience in food manufacturing or processing sectors related to fish and milk.
Requirement for Basic level
The applicant must be a graduate in Science and technology or in the field of food/biology/microbiology/chemistry. A person with a different educational background must possess a minimum experience of 5 years in the food manufacturing, catering, or retail sector or have a minimum of 3 years experience in food safety and hygiene from FSMS or any other certification program. The applicant should be well versed with FSSAI rules and regulations and must have excellent communication & motivational skills. The applicant must be able to attend a 20 days training program from the authority per year.
For Advanced level
The graduation requirements are the same as that of basic level licenses but for the person with different education background the experience required in the field of manufacturing, retail, or catering is 7 years and with any certification such as FSMS, HACCP is 5 years. The requirement for complete knowledge of FSSAI rules and regulations remains the same.
Requirement for Special Course
To complete a special course of Training Mitra, the applicant must have at least 3 years of experience in food and hygiene with food safety systems such as FSMS or HACCP. Additionally, they must have good communication skills, prior knowledge of FSSAI norms, and should be able to attend a 20-day training module per year. The education background should be the same as the previous two categories.
For Hygiene Mitra
The permitted age limit for the applicant is from 21 to 60 years. The education qualifications required are as follows: A graduate in Catering Technology, Microbiology, Hotel Management, Dairy and Agricultural Sciences, Oil Technology, Veterinary Sciences, Biochemistry, and Bio-Technology. Prior knowledge of food safety rules and regulations of FSSAI.
Note: The applicant with extensive experience in hazards identification, analysis or control of contaminants, hygienic and sanitary practices, and processing techniques for food would be given priority.
Roles of FSM in the Food Sector
- Filing of new online Web forms concerning licensing of FSSAI renewal.
- Application filing and fee submission for ratification of existing registration and license.
- Filing of annual returns or turnover of the food business.
- Application filing to validate label, advertisement, or food product.
- Appeal filing for revocation or suspension of existing license and registration.
For Trainer Mitra
- Organizing training sessions in the Eat Right Campus.
- Training sessions for food safety supervisors.
- Organizing food safety training for other organizations on demand.
- Inspecting hygiene of food outlets as per the norms of FSSAI.
- Assisting food businesses in meeting the compliance standards of the FSSAI.
- Conducting food safety training for food handlers or supervisors of the food product companies.
- Obtaining service charges from the food businesses on behalf of FSSAI.
Procedure for Application to FSM Scheme
The applicant should follow the following steps to apply for Food Safety Mitra Scheme.
- Go to the online portal of the FSSAI and click on the “Apply Online” tab on the dashboard.
- Now, fill the online application form with your personal details, education qualification, and detail regarding work experience.
- After filling the online form, one must take a thorough look into the terms and conditions of the scheme and click on the “Agree” button given below if satisfied.
- The final step is to click on the “Register Yourself” tab and the registration process will be completed.
Issuance and Cancellation of FSM Certificate
Once the application of the applicant for the Food Safety Mitra training is approved, the applicant will have to go through the online training module designed by the experts of the FSSAI. Post completion of the said online modules, the applicant will have to appear for a Computer based test (CBT) which will be conducted in test centers decided by the authority. If a candidate is able to clear the assessment, then he/she will get a certificate of FSM which will be valid for two years. In this duration, the candidate can render services related to FSSAI to food vendors and businesses.
Before granting the certificate, the authority collects a security deposit of Rs. 5000 from the applicant. If in the future, an FSM decides to exit the scheme through cancellation, he can apply for it and will get his security deposit refunded. The authority can also cancel or revoke the license of an FSM if he doesn’t follow the Code of Conduct specified by the authority. The security amount won’t be refunded in this scenario.
So, we understood everything about the Food Safety Mitra scheme launched by the FSSAI. The authority is trying to develop a network of such FSM so that its services could be rendered by businesses all across the country. This will ensure uniformity in the Indian food industry and compliance standards. This will also ensure that each food business has easy access to training on food and hygiene maintenance practices for business.
We have also given details of the eligibility criteria for the scheme. However, if any applicant seeks guidance on the eligibility criteria for the scheme, he can seek assistance from a financial consulting firm specializing in this regard. Even the food businesses who want to get the training on hygiene measures can use this scheme after getting consultations from such companies.