Monday, June 22, 2015

The "Authority"-Raking up old "mantra" with no seriousness will not solve food safety mess!

How can one help from "throwing up" reading the latest "blah, blah" put out by the FSSAI? Till some lowly food inspector in a remote area in UP raised the safety of the noodles made by a  global manufacturer, reams of paper, number of days of telecasting time have been wasted condemning the MNC for its deliberate strategy to poison the Indian citizens by adding tons of MSG and Lead in their products! Now that FSSAI has "sent" a Rs 1700 cr spending plan to the government, one naturally must ask the logical question as to what this Authority has been doing so far except more and more bureaucratization of its functions, strengthening its own pleasure deriving office infrastructure and disbursing perks to its "committee" members. One of the four areas it wants to increase is its manpower, (read, more bureaucrats) while the existing staff itself is practically doing nothing leaving inspection, sampling, testing and prosecution to the terribly understaffed and poorly paid state machinery! Do they have no shame left, being responsible for the mess we see to day in this country vis-a-vis food quality and safety? Poor Prime Minister! It is a tragedy that he is depending on these "babus" to realize his dream of "make in India" a reality in the food sector also. Read below to realize what dreams FSSAI has through its latest mantra which is nothing but the proverbial "old wine in new bottle"!

"Days after the recall of Maggi Noodles from India highlighted glaring gaps in the food regulatory structure, the Health Ministry has sent a Rs 1,700-crore proposal to the Union Cabinet for a sweeping revamp. According to sources, the proposal focuses on four main areas: strengthening the state inspection apparatus, bolstering the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's manpower, giving the FSSAI more powers and ensuring that the authority has access to state-of-the-art technology. "We have sent a proposal to the Cabinet to increase FSSAI's manpower, both technical and field staff, and make sure that it has at its disposal the latest technologies in its laboratories," a senior official in the Health Ministry told The Indian Express. "Currently, it (FSSAI) is a rudimentary set-up. In fact, 16 states do not even have a food testing laboratory. The actual increase in staff strength will have to be worked out once the proposal is passed because revamping the state food safety set-up is a very important part of the plan," he added. An investigation by The Indian Express this month had revealed a number of shortcomings in the country's food safety apparatus — at the Centre and states — including lack of staff, technology and accreditation for most state labs. Last week, Tata Starbucks said it was "suspending" some ingredients from its outlets after that products used by the company and a number of other top brands, such as Kellogg's and Venky's, figured on a list of around 500 rejected products prepared by the national food safety regulator. The official, meanwhile, stressed that that revamp was not connected to the recent controversy surrounding the recall of Nestle's popular instant noodles after lab tests showed unsafe levels of lead in some samples. "The restructuring of FSSAI has been in the works for long. It has got nothing to do with the recall of Maggi Noodles or whatever has happened since then," the official said. Sources said that the FSSAI currently has its own staff deployed in only five cities across the country, leaving the checking of imported foods mostly to state authorities and, at times, even to Customs officials. Sources said the proposal would pump Rs 1,700 crore into the food safety administration apparatus over the next few years. "A very important part of the plan is to hire more experts. At present, scientific work is mostly outsourced to committees formed for the purpose. For example, FSSAI has formed an 11-member expert committee to look at salt, sugar and fat content of Indian foods and recommend acceptable levels," sources in the ministry said."

While this Blogger is not holding any brief for noodles, the way the manufacturer was treated shabbily and recklessly by the governments at the state and central levels, by motivated "revelations", damaging statements and serious insinuations will send "shivers" through the global investors even if they have any remote plans to invest in Indian food sector! The belated discovery that noodles is a junk food, soft drinks are poisons and many products from big industrial players are not healthy can only reflect on the poor planning and governance in this country. Is India becoming a "banana republic" as being perceived by some or is it a "macho" image the present government is trying to send across? Whatever it is, enough damage has been done to the reputation of the country and it is going to take lot a of time to "repair" this self inflicted wound and restore our credibility across the globe.


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