New Food Standards Regime On The Anvil

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   (2012-07-19 00:00:00)

The food poisoning episodes in the State capital and the shocking revelations from raids conducted across the State might well prove to be the starting point of a much sterner food administration regime in the State along with the rest of the country.

The country is all poised for enforcement of the Food and Safety Standards Act 2006 which prescribes science-based standards for various items of food and seeks to regulate the manufacture, storage, sale, etc so that these are absolutely safe for human consumption.

The Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act was all about adulteration and penalties, but the 2006 Act is the first attempt in the country to engage in standardisation process, defining specific standards for each food item, K. Chandramouli, who recently took over as the chairman of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the apex body of food safety in the country,here recently.

Till now, the country has had a plethora of Acts to deal with various aspects concerning food, under various implementing authorities. The new Food Safety and Standards Act brings all laws under an umbrella in the Ministry of Health.

“The challenge before us is huge because we need to get everyone in the business of selling food – Food Business Operators (FBO) – on board in the licensing and registration process, including everyone from your local fruit seller to those running five-star hotels. We are not there to penalise anyone, but we want all FBOs to be more accountable about the food they are selling, which will ultimately increase their own respectability,” Mr. Chandramouli pointed out.

Licensing by August 4

The States have been asked to complete the registration and licensing process by August 4 this year. In this first year of implementing the Act, the FSSAI will focus on getting solid data on the number of persons engaged in food business in the country. Rough estimates say that about 5.5 crore people are engaged in the food business, including street vendors and home-based food sellers. The FBOs have been categorised on the basis of their annual turnover and those with a turnover of Rs. 12 lakh and above will need a licence while those below will need to register themselves under the Act.

Mr. Chandramouli said the process had just been set in motion and eight scientific committees had been set up to lay down standards.

“We need more scientific labs even though we have a network of CSIR labs and that of the National Institute of Nutrition, and authentic testing methods. We need more scientists and food analysts. But right now, more public awareness is needed on the Act so that consumers come forward to demand safe, healthy food,” he said.

The local bodies have a crucial role to play as in getting all street vendors and tea shop owners into the registration process.