Monday, June 7, 2010


Food safety is an area where there is no scope for sort of compromise. Progressive control regimes developed from time to time are intended to prevent costly market recalls and avoid episodes of food poisoning. One of the unintended consequences of vast technological strides made during the last 10 years in the realm of quality control practices is the ever increasing cost of monitoring and compliance procedures. There are apprehensions that if such cost escalations continue, most of the small scale processors will have close down being unable to bear the cost of implementing mandatory guidelines. In the US it is expected that 40-50% of small abattoirs located near small communities may have to close down if the "one size fits all" HACCP food safety practices are made mandatory.

"The intent of HACCP is to prevent contamination of meat by harmful pathogens. Plant HACCP plans are approved and overseen by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the inspection arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On March 19, 2010, the FSIS published a draft guidance document on HACCP system validation, outlining new rules which would institute regular, year-round testing of all meats, whether or not problems have been identified. The proposal recommends testing for testing's sake, and it will cost small plants tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, every year. The financial burden appears great enough that this will destroy much of the remaining community-based meat processing industry, which is enjoying a renaissance and creating jobs".

India does not have to be concerned about such developments because there is hardly any serious surveillance and it is a "free for fall" situation as far as food sector is concerned. With more than 70% of the processed products coming from the unorganized sector, many of them with practically no permanent address and more than 95% of the retail trade in the informal sector, it will be a miracle, even if a semblance of food safety practices can be enforced.

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