Thursday, November 19, 2015

How ridiculous Indian Food Laws can be! The license seems to back!

There was a time when licensing raj was rampant in the country with the government bureaucrats wielding literally dictatorial powers to decide who is allowed to start an industry which was largely responsible for the stagnation in the manufacturing sector for many decades. This also ushered in the unbridled corruption environment where for every thing to do with the government the citizen has to pay "bribes". One can see where this has taken the country and to day corruption scandals are rules of the day rather than exceptions. As for food processing there were several departments of the government both at the center as well as at the state level, treating the entrepreneurs like dirt dampening the national entrepreneurial spirit very significantly. Then came hope when the Central government brought in the much touted Food Safety and Authority of India to consolidate all laws pertaining to food manufacturing, Alas, what one sees to day is total chaos and gargantuan road blocks before the industry in the form of untenable demands from this arrogant agency. It is still in the fresh memory of people in this country how the "authority" tried to destroy an entire industry recently by banning its products on fictitious technical basis, though the judiciary had to step in to checkmate the authoritarian action of the "authority" ! Why it is so much obsessed with noodles is a big mystery because its latest assault comes in the form diktats ordering a particular manufacturer not to market its branded noodle for reasons known to them only. Here is a take on this interesting behavior of the "authority"   

The instant noodles brand launched by Ramdev's Patanjali does not have food safety approval, the central regulator FSSAI has said,  a charge that the yoga teacher has denied. "Neither Patanjali Yog nor Aayush, which are the two brand names under which Ramdev's company have got licenses, have got any approval for manufacturing instant noodles," said Ashish Bahuguna, the acting CEO of the FSSAI or Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. He said that only 10 companies have approval for manufacturing noodles. Ramdev rubbished the claim and said that his company had taken permission from the regulator. "I think there is some misunderstanding on this.  Patanjali Atta noodle have product approval for manufacturing," he said. Patanjali said in a statement that it has license in the "pasta" category, which includes noodles. But the food safety regulator said the company needed separate permission to make "Atta" or wheat noodles."

Earlier the food industry had to submit the label of the product it intends to make to the government agencies and if there was no response., it could go ahead with the marketing. To day FSSAI wants each and every food handling unit including the mom and pop kitchens to take license from it and renew the same every year! While big companies may have the wherewithal to meekly submit to their diktats, it is the poor micro sector that suffers because of various constraints. Is it not a tragedy that FSSAI is least concerned about critical foods like milk, food grains, spices, edible oils, sweetmeats etc which are adulterated day in and day out across the country putting the lives of hapless citizens into jeopardy, doing nothing? Earlier this bureaucratic and authoritative organization is dismantled, better it will be for the country. In stead the responsibility of managing food safety must be left to the state organizations based on well defined national guidelines. What is needed is pumping massive funds into these state level food vigilance agencies to strengthen their infrastructure and personnel, in stead of wasting precious resources on a top heavy bureaucratic organization centered in Delhi in the name of food safety.


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