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Equinox launches Hygiene Shield, a certification standard for food industry
Monday, 13 February, 2012, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Irum Khan, Mumbai
Mumbai-based Equinox Labs has launched the unique concept of Hygiene Shield, which according to the company, is an ideal certification standard for the food industry which is still staggering way behind when it comes to ensuring food quality.

“The Concept of Hygiene Shield was born 2 years ago, Equinox Labs soft-launched the concept four months ago. There was an overwhelming response from the market. The Hygiene Shield was officially launched on January 26, 2012,” informed Ashwin Bhadri, head, business relations, Equinox Labs, to FnB News.

According to Bhadri, one of the major problems being faced by the existing food safety standards in the country like ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) 22000, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point System) and now FSSC (Food Safety System Certification) is that these are not followed by majority of the food businesses because of their inherent complexities and cost.

Bhadri believes that Hygiene Shield is a physical proof which would showcase that a particular establishment is hygiene certified.

“Today, Indians have started understanding the importance of the food safety and hygiene. The pioneers of the food business have understood the importance of hygiene and have invested heavily in ensuring hygiene and compliance to standards,” he said.

Despite rising awareness about hygiene and food safety, food businesses at large refrain from investing their money and time into hygiene assurance. “This is largely because of the fact that hygiene certification, however complicated the process may be, is never communicated to the customers. In most of the cases, it is seen as a back-end expense, which is incurred only to ensure compliance to certain standards. Such spends never generate any additional revenue for the food businesses. Majority of the players of the highly competitive food industry of India thus refrain from making such investments,” said Bhadri.

Hygiene and Food Safety are concepts that do not have any tangibility. While the investments made by the food establishments ensure compliance to global standards, they do not attract any additional business, nor do they strengthen the loyalty of the existing consumers.

1. Bhadri explains that the Hygiene Shield ensures pre-testing training of the kitchen staff. The applicants need to ensure Food Safety Guidelines before the inspections and testing for Hygiene Shield qualification.

Shield-aspiring food businesses need to pass a minimum of 80% of the inspection and testing parameters to qualify for the Shield certificate. Once certified, the food businesses need to maintain the standards of food safety. All the certified outlets will be inspected once every quarter, for verification of compliance to the standards. All inspections will carry the element of surprise to it; the food businesses will not be informed before the inspections. The contract for the Hygiene Shield would be done on annual basis.

Benefits of Hygiene Shield

1. Less Headache - Simple Implementation of Hygiene. Implementation of Hygiene can be a hard and tedious activity, involving a dedicated Quality Manager. Moreover, keeping track of Quality Control at all stages requires in-depth monitoring and documentation, increasing the time-frame of quality implementation to over 6 months. Hygiene Shield makes quality control easy to understand and implement. The training material provided by Equinox Labs ensures easy understanding of Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) in your kitchen. The training material will be available in English and Hindi, which will make it easier for the entire staff to understand and comprehend the basics of food safety and hygiene.

2. Visibility  – In general Hygiene Assurance attracts heavy investments and involves great complexity. The fact that such investments do not add to the net revenue of the business, keeps many of the businessmen away from investing in Hygiene. The Hygiene Shield is designed to be portrayed at the most prominent part of the establishment, in full customer attention, increasing the awareness among the customers about the standards maintained at the premises. Thus Hygiene Shield provides tangibility to hygiene certification, thus enhancing the brand image.

3. Marketability  – The wall-mounted Hygiene Shield, displayed in public view, ensures awareness of the hygiene certification among customers and the stakeholders; enhancing the brand image, customer’s trust and drives more traffic. Moreover, the logo of the Hygiene Shield can be used in the marketing communications, hence creating a clear differentiation from the competitors. The value proposition of the Hygiene Shield certified food businesses goes way beyond cuisine, taste, quantity and price. It repositions the food businesses as “Good Food – Safe Food” providers.

4. Financial Viability  – Over a period of time, the Hygiene Shield would drive more traffic to the compliant food businesses, resulting in higher revenue and greater profits. Thus, Hygiene Shield makes the investment in hygiene assurance more financial viable.

5. Continuity  – Regular, Periodic Testing and Monitoring assures compliance to hygiene standards. Hygiene is an ongoing process, requiring constant observation, identifications of problems, rectifications and training. Once the standards are set, regular and periodic monitoring needs to done to ensure compliance to the standards. The repetitive and quarterly inspection and testing model of Hygiene Shield ensures complete adherence to the standards by the kitchen staff as well as all the other food handlers.

6. First Mover Advantage - Early adopters will reap greater benefits and build greater customer’s trust as they will be able to ride the benefits of the marketing elements of the unique idea. Since no other food business talks about food safety, Hygiene Shield is emerging as a fresh idea, addressing the need for safe food, especially for the health-conscious customers. Hence the early adopters of Hygiene Shield will enjoy the added advantage of being recognised as the promoters of food safety.

7. Protection  – Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) has revolutionised the concept of food safety in India. As per the rules of the government body, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), every food manufacturer needs to ensure the implementation of a comprehensive Food Safety Management System (FSMS), while compliance to the standards of quality control across all the stages is a must. The FSMS Audit, an inspection for compliance assurance to the standards set by FSSAI is an integrated part of the Hygiene Shield Certification Process. Thus Hygiene Shield ensures compliance to the FSSAI standards, providing protection against legal hassles.

8. Greater Savings  – As per the FSSA, a comprehensive FSMS needs to be implemented by all food businesses, which involves quality control across all the stages of food production; starting from procurement of raw materials to display and selling of the final food products. This involves rigorous complicated documentation of the entire procedure, which requires the appointment of a food technologist with a minimum average salary of Rs 15,000 per month. Hygiene Shield ensures all the necessary documentation in a systematic structure, at less than half the cost of Rs 5,999 per month.

9. Affordability  – The pricing of Hygiene Shield has been Rs 5,999 per month. Such a price point makes it highly affordable for every food business in the food industry. Hygiene Shield aims at ensuring food safety across the entire social strata of India, by certi
 
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