Wednesday, January 15, 2014


India is a country which cannot be fathomed by its own people! A bundle of contradictions which can never be resolved even by God himself! This country can send probes to Venus but cannot ensure that its people are protected from the fraudsters who are omnipotent in every walk of life. There is a neck and neck competition between India and China for the numero uno position with respect to food adulteration and both countries do not seem to be so much concerned about the consequences of such unbridled  fraud practices by the food sector that can affect the health of their hapless citizens. For a number of decades there was the famous (or is it infamous?) PFA in India which was so toothless that there were not even 500 convictions an year for food frauds in a country of more than a billion population. Then came a new "Avatar" romantically named FSSAI which replaced the PFA of 1956. There were hopes that things would improve and citizens can access to safe foods under the watchful eyes of this Authority comfortably located in the air conditioned offices in Delhi. The most visible accomplishment of this agency is to force every one handling food (mercifully except the consumer) to take a license from it or go to jail! Even a home food maker selling food preparations must obfuscate before it, if to continue to do "business"! What they will do after licensing is known only to the babus who run FSSAI! Here is a take on this latest "time bomb" ticking on the "head" of food sector in India. 

"The official said food sellers who continued to stay in business without registration or a licence after the February 4 could face imprisonment up to six months and fine of Rs. two lakh. College, school and industrial canteens too will have to either register with or obtain licence from the Food Safety and Standards Authority to remain in business legally. "The new rules are applicable to anyone involved in food business, including those who operate storage space for import or export purposes," said the official. Toddy shops and meat sellers too come under the FSSA rules and need either licence or registration. Though the validity of the old food safety regime under Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act ended in March 2011, food businesses have been given time till February 4 to change over. Under PFA rules, local bodies issued licences and registrations to food businesses. According to the FSSA official, businesses with a turnover of up to Rs. 12 lakh a year need only register with the authority. Others with a turnover of more than Rs. 12 lakh a year need to obtain a licence."

It is unthinkable that a monolithic organization like FSSAI can do efficiently what it has declared it would do. Where are the personnel or for that matter the infrastructure to monitor millions of food handlers spread across the country and prosecute defaulters promptly? Does the country have sufficient legal facilities to bring to book culprits identified by FSSAI? What about the prison facilities? If properly followed up more than 50% of country's food business owners would be in jail! It may be too harsh to speak in such terms but it is the bitter reality facing the country. Unless a more practical approach and strategy is thought of India's food safety credentials will always be compromised. 


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