Friday, July 30, 2010


Conceptually creation of Food Standards and Safety Authority of India is sound because it radically changes the food quality surveillance system in the country by bringing under one umbrella most of the government departments dealing with different aspects and areas of food quality. This is supposed to achieve an integrated approach to food safety without any overlapping or conflicts amongst the various agencies handling this task earlier. Though there are critics who are not convinced about the effectiveness of a bureaucratic set up like FSSAI, credit must go to this young organization for at least attempting to create the necessary impetus for country-wide implementation of globalized food laws. Here is a critique on the food safety landscape in the country viewed from the eyes of a dispassionate observer which is objective as well as balanced,

"In conclusion, the introduction of FSSA provides the much required "one law-one regulator" platform for raising the food safety standards of India to match global standards. Its speedy and effective implementation is quickly warranted to put India onto the global food map. This would require an enabling implementation environment focused on creation of transparency, developing right infrastructure and extensive R&D capacity so as to match the dynamically changing requirements of food safety and standards. The initiative would also require a wide spread awareness and promotion campaign focused on changing the mindset of food producers so as to encourage adherence to food safety standards".

While mentioning about food contamination incidences taking place more or less regularly even in advanced countries, it has to be admitted that in India there is no data base or reporting system for food poisoning or adverse health incidences which may give one the mistaken impression that foods made in India are absolutely safe. There are thousands of food related incidences taking place every day and only extremely serious cases involving mortality get publicity, that too because of the highly visible media in the country. The miserable infrastructure and lack of in-depth knowledge amongst the implementing personnel will make any national plan for food safety guarantee to the citizens unimplementable. The reported attempts to train food commissioners and food inspectors through casual 2-3 day sessions in Delhi, are totally futile because they have to go back to the basics of food quality and safety through more focused and thorough training programs. India is known for its ability to put out good planning reports but these are rarely backed by commitment and sustained action. Probably FSSAI story may also turn out to be same.

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