Lot has been written and debated upon about the new Food Law of the country that was supposed to begin a new chapter in the history of India for protecting the citizen's right for having good quality and safe food. It took fifty years of constant and continuous pleas by the consumer right acivists, industry and food scientists to government of India to unify the safety enforcement regime in the light of hundreds of loopholes found in the erstwhile "Prevention Of Food Adulteration" (PFA) Act and more than a dozen scattered laws administered by various ministries. When the Laws were revised through the Food Safety and Standards Act in 2006 and a unified regime was sought to be put in place it raised hopes and vision of an India where the unbridled run of fraudsters and merchants of harm would be curtailed. Unfortunately, in spite of taking more than 5 years to come out with the appropriate frame work of rules under the Act, what came out was a disappointment of herculean magnitude. It is now contented that the evolution of the operating regime has been marked by lack of foresight, callousness, inaccuracies, discrepancies and contradictions and these issues are now being raised by the industry which is feeling the heat. Whether there is any truth in the stand taken by the industry remains to be seen. Here is a take on this development.
"A delegation of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) met senior officials of Food Safety Authority of India on controversial Food Safety & Standard Act today at New Delhi. The CAIT while presenting a detailed memorandum to the Authority drew its attention towards various contradictions, discrepancies, ambiguity & disparity in the said Act and its Rules & Regulations. The CAIT also pointed out several contradictory provisions between the Act and Rules and Regulations. Beside CAIT National President B.C. Bhartia and Secretary General Mr. Praveen Khandelwal the Authority officials include it?s Director (Enforcement) Mr. S.S. Ghankrokta, Assistant Director (Enforcement) Mr. K. Madhavan among others. While challenging the merits of the Act and its Rules, the CAIT expressed utter dismay over provisions of taking license by several entities including religious places like Temple or Gurdwara etc, Transporters, Warehouse keepers, Landlords or by persons delivering Food & other items by mobile distribution vehicles and called for necessary clarifications from the Authority. The CAIT also drew the attention of the Authority over turn over limit of Rs. 12 lakh for the Cottage and Small Industries, which contravenes the definition of Cottage, and Small Industries under the SSI Act. The CAIT also said that many provisions of the Rules and Regulations are superseding the Act, which is a legal infirmity. The Rules and Regulations of FS&SA therefore needs a careful study and re-consideration-stressed the CAIT. The Authorities gave patient hearing to the delegation and assured that the intention of Law or Authority is never to put the food business operators in to any sort of difficulty. The issues raised by the CAIT will be given due consideration by the Authority and hoped that clarity will surely emerge in the next meeting which will be held shortly".
Of course while designing of any national system for application through out the country is bound to have unexpected operational problems, what is being contented is that these rules are totally impractical at the ground level. It is disturbing that these rules are being challenged in many judicial courts and with stay orders brought to nullify its operations, cases related to prosecution of food adulteration may come to a grinding halt leaving the field free for the food criminals to make money through their heinous activities. Probably there is case for creating a Food Safety Ministry under which all the erstwhile laws relating to food quality and safety can be brought together as the these laws have wide acceptance among the stake holders including the industry. Amendments can be made from time to time to improve the standards and safety practices and even if these are challenged the basic features of the system remain in tact.