Export and import of foods require rigorous quality and safety check to ensure substandard foods are neither exported nor brought into the country. With ISO system and HACCP regime in place with many food processors, dependence on testing of samples by government laboratories is progressively being reduced. Privately owned advanced testing facilities with international reputation also are working in the country with great success. Under such a prevailing situation the recent announcement by the MFPI to set up a testing lab in the public sector at Bangalore for assessing export samples does not make any sense. By its own admission MFPI officials are admitting that the present arrangement at CFTRI Mysore is not satisfactory because of inordinate delays involved in getting the results. How another Laboratory under government aegis can do better is a million dollar question. Interestingly the responsibility for setting up and operating the proposed Lab facilities is to be entrusted to a little known agency under MFPI, Indian Institute of Crop Processing technology which was formerly known as Paddy Processing Research Center (PPRC) at Thanjavur. If and when the proposal sees the light of the day, how it can improve upon CFTRI record remains unclear.
"We are willing to set up a food test lab of global standards in Bangalore. The food industry in the state can come out with details of the infrastructure availability," said Ajit Kumar, joint secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, at an interactive session with food sector officials in Bangalore at the behest of the BCIC (Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce). Currently the Karnataka food industry needs to send the samples for export to the Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, which takes time. In order to speed up the process and to make the food industry vibrant, an advanced food lab was mandatory, he said. While no details of investment were disclosed, Kumar said a built-up area of 3,000 sq. ft was needed. One of the locations to set up the lab was the University of Agricultural Sciences. There were also suggestions by the food industry on land available at Yelahanka, close to the Bangalore International Airport. This would allow the food sector to have better proximity for exports.
Power politics and rug pulling are common amongst personnel working with government organizations and it looks as if the proposal is another attempt to make CFTRI more and more irrelevant as far as the Indian food industry is concerned. By systematically down sizing the stature of the once renowned CFTRI through setting up NIFTEM in Haryana and upgrading the status of the erstwhile PPRC, the only thing MFPI can achieve is to reduce the technical prowess of this country in the food sector. What role CFTRI itself has played in its progressive decline during the last few years under a pedestrian leadership may be for history to judge!