World food safety day

Good food is essential for our healthy living. However, access to healthy and safe food is challenging nowadays as commercialisation has penetrated even in food materials and thus, numerous food-borne diseases have started flourishing. As per the reports of the World Health Organisation (WHO), “over 200 diseases are caused by eating contaminated food.” To raise awareness about the importance of ensuring food safety, the United Nations General Assembly with the support of the World Health Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) started observing 7 June as World Food Safety Day. “Food Safety – Prepare for the Unexpected” is this year’s theme.

As an NGO that provides mid-day meals to children in government and government-aided schools, Akshaya Patra strives to provide children safe, hygienic mid-day meals.

Let’s have a look at some of the food hygiene and safety principles we follow to ensure children’s health.

• Quality check of the raw materials

Assuring the quality of raw materials is important to serve good meals. So we follow a criteria for supplier selection and procurement of raw materials. If the raw materials do not meet the expected standards, we return them. In addition, we conduct regular inspections to ensure raw materials meet all the specifications adapted from the Food Safety Standards Act 2006 (FSSA).

• Preservation of raw materials

Once the quality checking is done, raw materials for cooking are stored appropriately to retain their quality. The vegetables that we procure daily are cleaned thoroughly and sanitised before cutting. Ready-to-cut vegetables are stored in cold storage. The rice supplied by the Food Corporation of India is machine-cleaned to ensure that all contaminants are eliminated before cooking. All the kitchens follow the FIFO (First In-First Out) and FEFO (First Expiry-First Out) methods to maintain the freshness and quality of the raw materials. Thereby, the kitchens can preserve and store the raw materials without spoilage.

• Maintenance of quality and safety during cooking process

The cooking process of all kitchens adheres to food safety standards. The first step is to sterilise all the equipment including cauldrons, sambar/dal tanks, knives and cutting boards using steam. The vessels used in kitchens are made of stainless steel of 304 grade which is best for cooking. Our kitchen staff are properly trained to follow the food safety measures and also to maintain their personal hygiene.

• Food packing and transportation

Once the cooking is done, the food is packed in steam sterilised vessels. Our specially designed vehicles are also steam sterilised before loading. The vehicles are designed in such a way as to save the food temperature and its freshness. We also use logistic charting and GPRS to ensure safe and on-time delivery.

• Post delivery

Taking regular feedback from schools is a crucial step that we follow to bring necessary improvements. The quality officers in the kitchen take action accordingly. We have also institutionalised Good Manufacturing Process (GMP), monthly audits and surprise audits to ensure food safety and quality.

• Continual improvement method

To enhance the quality of mid-day meals, we designed a programme called AkshayaPragathi. For this, we follow Kaizen philosophy, CI Projects and Six Sigma methodologies. Regular training workshops are conducted for employees in kitchens across the country.

All the efforts that we put in are to bring more children under the Government of India’s PM POSHAN Abhiyaan (the Mid-Day Meal Programme) and thus achieve our vision – ‘No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.’ The numerous food safety awards that we have won over the years are a testament to our commitment to provide children healthy and safe mid-day meals.

Let’s have a glimpse at some of the awards that we received for food safety.

• Surat and Vadodara units received Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Award for Food Safety in 2016

• Our Vasanthapura kitchen (Bengaluru) received the top position for the Outstanding Performance in Food Safety and Hubballi kitchen received the second highest position of the ‘Certificate of Commendation for Significant Achievement in Food Safety’ at the CII National Award for Food Safety 2014 during the 9th Food Safety and Quality Summit

• Akshaya Patra Bellary received the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Award for Food Safety – 2013, for efficient Food Safety and Quality Systems

Safe food means fewer illnesses which in turn improves attendance and retention rates in schools. When you support us, you are taking a significant step to alleviate malnutrition in children and empowering them to learn well and dream big.

Donate online to nurture children by ensuring their continued access to safe and nutritious meals. Let’s build a healthy and happy generation together!

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