India’s federal government plans on bringing in a law to determine the size of helpings served in high-end hotels and restaurants, in a bid to minimise food wastage.
In a thinly veiled warning Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Wednesday said that the hospitality industry would be asked whether it would ‘voluntarily’ accomplish this declaration, or it needed the government to institute legal provisions to enforce it.
“If a person can only eat two prawns, why should they be served six” reasoned Paswan adding that it was a waste of food and money as people paid for something they did not eat.
He declared that his ministry now wanted upscale eateries to specify on their menus exactly how much each portion they were serving contained.
This intended fiat follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly public radio broadcast on 26 March in which he dwelt on food wastage.
“We should only take as much (food) as we can eat” Modi declared in his Mann Ki Baat or Heart’s Voice programmme, adding that if Indians avoided food wastage, they would benefit economically.
Hoteliers and restaurateurs have received the food minister’s statement with disbelief.
“The government proposal is nothing short of ridiculous, besides being unenforceable” said Abhay Jagat, a leading restaurant owner in Chandigarh, a city 150 miles north of New Delhi renowned for its eateries.
There is nothing stopping the patron from taking home a ‘doggie bag’ of what is left over of his order, he declared.
Earlier, in February the authorities in northern Jammu and Kashmir state had announced restrictions on the number of dishes that can be served at public and private gatherings, especially weddings, in an effort at curbing waste.
The provincial authorities said the order, which came into effect on 1 April, was in response to complaints they had received concerning wastage of vast quantities of food at weddings.
They claimed famed Kashmiri meat delicacies were thrown into dustbins, as they simply could not be consumed.
Wedding menus too have been restricted in Kashmir to no more than seven meat dishes and only two servings of fruits and pudding.
Food at Indian weddings in Kashmir, and elsewhere across the country, is renowned for its variety, quantity and extravagance, as people strive to outdo one another in profligacy.
Social norms prompt competition at weddings, even for the poorest; and the food wastage that occurs as a consequence is distressing in a country where over 230 million people were malnourished and some 44 per cent of children, less than five years old, were underweight.