Perhaps one of the only times people in the U.S. consciously think about restaurant food safety is upon reading "Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness" on the menu. But what about perceived safety? If a restaurant looks clean, it's easier to assume it serves healthy food. If it looks unkempt, a consumer may want to know what's going on in the kitchen.
Jumping across the globe, food safety in India, while mandated, is not effectively enforced. Yet research suggests that people in India are willing to pay around 25% more for food that keeps them healthy and able to earn an income. There is need for a helping hand in government enforcement, vendor education and auditing as well as communication with consumers. Enter BlueFood.
BlueFood is a food safety consulting and certification business that received a startup grant from Acara, an IonE program designed to launch social businesses. It is currently in its market research/pilot phase and has gone through some strategic changes in the last two months.
The company targets mobile street vendors and permanent storefront restaurants in Lajpat Nagar market in South Delhi. Through a series of education, audits and close communication, vendors can become certified with a BlueFood logo. The team hopes the logo will become a recognized, trusted brand signifying food safety to customers. The safety measures attained by certification also mean the vendors will be at less risk of shut down by government food-safety workers.
The pilot program in Lajpat Nagar is about halfway complete. So far the vendors are utilizing visible safety gear, such as gloves and filtered water. The consumer response to these results and others will determine if the company will begin a full launch in January 2013.
While Blue Food's main focus is food safety, there are undoubtedly positive environmental impacts as well. The education in safe food handling is currently resulting in less food waste; this in turn will likely result in a smaller carbon footprint for these vendors. In addition, the team is talking about encouraging vendors to use more carbon-neutral fuels (instead of biomass like wood) and beginning a possible secondary initiative about sustainable eating. In time, BlueFood may change the street food culture of Delhi and spread further into the urban world, protecting millions more.