Food authorities in India seem to have learned some what from the recent noodle fiasco reflected by their recent decision to involve a multiplicity of organizations, in carrying out support activities across the length and breadth of the country. On the face of it this looks to be sound in concept though at the ground level how it works out remains to be seen. Though one can criticize the safety agency under the Health Ministry for hundreds of reasons or alleged lapses, when it thinks about "out of the box" solutions, that deserves appreciation. The latest decision is such a case where the agency must be applauded. Of course translating the idea into a vibrant and workable system will require the agency to set aside its bureaucratic instincts and carry all the stake holders along with then, in executing a task, by no means, a simple one in a country like India with complex dimensions. Here is a take on this latest "thinking" as reported recently in the media.
"In an attempt to have stricter vigilance over food products after incidents like Maggi noodles and other similar packaged products which were found hazardous to human health, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which functions under Union Health Ministry, has decided to outsource surveys and food testing to various organisations related to food safety. Under a funding scheme,the FSSAI would associate with central and state government agencies, consumer organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other institutions, including government universities and colleges working in the area of food safety for undertaking surveys and food quality tests, etc under its Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities."
If the logic of "out of the box thinking" can have potential to improve the system and ensure better confidence of the consumer on the effectiveness of the vigilance body, another possibility is to create another mechanism to involve the consumer in tackling adulteration and other complaints pertaining to thousands of products in the market. Currently the citizen has no way to get redressal of his complaints because he has no where to go to narrate his problem. Why not create an Omdurman with some authority in each taluka in the country to receive such complaints, look at them to decide whether they are silly or unreasonable and after filtering them draw up a list of sales outlets who indulge in such practices for further action by the food authorities. It is possible that there could be many cases which may look silly but drawing up a list of retail outlets or food companies having such tendencies to cheat consumers will be a useful guide for further surveillance and action. A person with some background of food basics should qualify to be an Omdurman with some authority so that food inspectors will respect their reports for taking action. They can also be the eyes and rears of the fafety agency in the market place.