Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Currently the food safety administration in India is supposed to be streamlined under the integrated regime "powered" by FSSAI. No doubt the law as it is documented in the Statute Books provides hope to the consumer that future can bode well for them with potential adulterators and fraudsters being deterred by the harsh penalty proposed and the expeditious disposal mechanism suggested to deal with   such cases. Industry also should not have any major complaint if the legal provisions are enforced honestly and unscrupulously. The real problem is the time taken to set up the necessary infrastructure to implement the law in letter and spirit considering that the implementing apparatus supposed to be under the State government is just pathetic if not ridiculous. Almost every day there are reports appearing in the news papers regarding the impotency of the state machinery to bring to books culprits caught meddling with food standards and getting away scot-free due to one reason or the other. Here is a report about the system that is being put in place to "manage" food safety in the country.

'With the much-awaited transition from a plethora of food laws and manifold control points to the single-integrated Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 (hereinafter referred to as FSSA) regime, there has been a critical shift in the process of adjudication as well envisioning expeditious disposal of cases related to food safety issues.  Special courts, summary trials and appellate tribunal have been provided for. The Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011, deals inter alia with adjudication proceedings, procedure for appeal to tribunal, qualification of the presiding officer of the tribunal etc. Five judicial forums for trial / adjudication have been provided for under the FSSA and Rules thereunder - Adjudicating Officer, Food Safety Appellate Tribunal, Judicial Magistrate of the First Class / Metropolitan Magistrate, Special Court and the High Court".

As long as the FSSAI does not have power and capacity to prosecute food criminals it is unlikely that any one will be indicted as has been happening in the past. It is not a secret that under the corrupt system involved in "catching" safety violators, very few cases reach the corridors of the Court and when ever some culprits are hauled up they get away easily through "well heeled" tricks perpetuated by experienced lawyers.  What about the Laboratories that analyze the samples as and when they are brought before them? Here again "experienced" agents are reported to be able to "fix" the results. Of course these are not documented any where to prove these allegations as these are done  mostly through  "understanding"  and "faith" and therefore very difficult to be proved for prosecuting the "abettors of the crime". To hope that the system will change with the new Act and the new Authority may just be day dreaming! Unless honesty is restored among the officials administering the Safety Law, India will continue to plod along pretending that every thing is fine with the quality and safety of food offered to the hapless citizens of the country.


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