Wednesday, November 30, 2011


If meetings and press notes are an indication of the effectiveness of functioning of an organization, the FSSAI at Delhi must be the most admired food safety agency in the world! Though India is known to be the world capital of sub-standard, adulterated and unsafe foods in this planet, precious little is done by GOI during the last 5 decades except setting up a paper tiger called by the exalted name-"The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India" (FSSAI) supposed to take up the onus of safeguarding the interests of 1.2 billion citizens in the country. The state machinery on which FSSAI depends for carrying out vigilance against unsafe foods are hardly functioning while convictions for food related crimes are insignificant due to non-performance of the safety auditing by the national as well as state systems. Here comes another "Press Note" with a grand declaration that a product recall system would be introduced in the country soon! Who will do this is the million dollar question and such grandstand with no track record to back up, hardly inspires any confidence among the citizens that India is a country for safe foods! 

"The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recently held a Product Recall Pilot meeting under the Chairmanship of V N Gaur, CEO, FSSAI. According to a press note released by the body, Gaur welcomed the representatives from various food industries and organisations, while Ravi Mathur, CEO, GS1, described the objectives of Global Product Recall Portal. The Product Recall Pilot is going to be conducted using recall portal service involving food producers, modern trade retailers and FSSAI to test the efficacy of recall prior to finalisation of recall regulation by FSSAI. The FSSAI has prepared draft guidelines on food recall procedures, primarily to guide food business operators to carry out a food recall through an efficient, rapid identification as well as removal of unsafe food and to inform the consumers about the potentially hazardous food in the market. In order to overcome the drawbacks in the Internal Product Recall System set up by the food producers and retailers, and to benefit the Indian food industry and exports through enhanced market shares with the implementation of Standardised National Recall Portal. Through this mechanism, the entire Indian food sector would be able to inspire greater trust and confidence of Indian and international consumers, buyers, regulators etc. in their products and their ability to manage food crisis". 

With about 12 million retail stores peddling thousands of products made by industries coming under the categories of micro enterprises, small scale manufacturers, medium and large scale players including many transnational companies and their subsidiaries, how the new ambitious program is going to be implemented is a mystery. In a country where the traders blatantly defy the food laws with impunity, consumers have long resigned to buying sub-par products at exorbitant prices stoking the inflation and putting their lives in jeopardy. Though food cannot be retailed without pilfer-proof packing with transparent labels as per the existing law, loose vending still continues and how can any one enforce the product recall regime with these prodigal business groups? First priority for any sincere efforts to streamline the food marketing is enforcing the existing laws ruthlessly and accord severe deterrent punishment to those who take liberty with the law of the land. As long as the retail sector is not organized, it is doubtful whether the unorganized sector can ever be forced to follow the regulations that exist in the statute book.  


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