On the menu for outrage on social media yesterday, was the story titled “Eat what you order: Modi government to fix portions of food served in hotels” in the Hindustan Times. Expectedly, social media users across the political spectrum trashed the proposal and other media houses curated the story too:
This overreach of the Government had disturbed people, especially since it came soon after the (fake) news that thanks to a Government suggestion, petrol pumps would shut down on Sundays.
But is that the truth? If one goes by the statement given by Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan (video below), it appears that the Government has no intention to “fix the portion size of food” served at restaurants:
Instead, this is what Mr Paswan said (emphasis added):
When we go to have food in restaurants, and when we see the wastage of food which takes place, then we feel such wastage is unjustified in a country where the poor remain hungry. Hence we have taken this step in the interest of the consumer, wherein we will ask the industry, whether they are willing to do it voluntarily, or they need a law to mandate it: that when they serve a portion of food to a person, they should mention in writing how much quantity of food would be served in the portion, whether one piece or two piece, whether one chapati or two chapatis, whether on idli or two idlis . We don’t want to control anything. We are doing this in the interest of consumers. Where are we saying that you should keep only so much quantity in one portion, we are only saying you should mention the quantity being served in each portion.
Quite clearly, the proposal seems to be in an early stage where discussions with the industry are going on. And importantly, rather than “fixing portion size”, the idea is to make restaurants declare the size of the portions they are serving. This was made very clear by the minister.
In fact, if one sees the video, one can see the NDTV reporter Sunetra Choudhury trying to force fit words like “uniformity” but the minister sticks to his statement. The move may be in line with the practice of sale of packaged items, where the net weight / quantity etc has to be specified on a product.
Hence, the initial report by Hindustan Times may not be giving a complete picture. In fact later in the day, media reports correctly reported the statement of Mr Paswan:
While the merits of the idea maybe debatable, it is certainly wrong to claim that the Government wants to fix the portion size of food in restaurants, especially since the minister has explicitly ruled it out.