Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unlimited hunger for power-the driving force of the Food Safety Regulator in India!

The duty of any government to safeguard the health of its population through regulatory and deterrent policies forms the foundation of  national laws enacted and enforced from time to time. The three main stakeholders of food landscape in a country are the consumers, the manufacturing industry and the government. Of course there is a fourth party with some stakes in the food scenario viz the growers of the foods but food laws generally are molded keeping in mind the marketed foods thus sparing the farmers. In India we have a power hungry food authority, a predominantly bureaucratic organization which is focusing more on what levers of controls it can hold rather than worrying about the well being of the citizen. What a tragedy! Though conceived with lot of good features the food regulatory guidelines are distorted to increase the powers in the hands of the bureaucrats holding the reins. The draconian measures introduced last year to bring the industry to its knees by "ordering" them to get its "approval" for every product being marketed, was squashed by the judiciary terming it as "arbitrary", a humiliation that should have compelled it to mend its ways. Unfortunately this  agency has become so shameless it is reported to be trying to circumvent the court orders by manipulating the rule book, in quest of dictatorial powers over the industry! Here is a take on this sordid goings on in the country in the name of food safety.  

"The Indian Drug Manufacturers' Association (IDMA) and Vital Neutraceuticals, a city-based company best known for challenging the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's product approval advisory process, are set to write to the government highlighting what they say are "illegal" measures of the regulator. At the heart of the matter are product approvals again, which the company and the IDMA fought to scrap last year. It was the verdict by the Bombay High Court in the Vital versus FSSAI case in 2014 that paved the way for the scrapping of the latter's approval advisory process by the Supreme Court this year. The apex court in its order dated August 19, 2015, had declared advisories as being arbitrary and hence illegal.The FSSAI has adhered to this directive but has also indicated it will bring back approvals once regulations are done It is this move by the regulator that the IDMA and Vital are seeking to quash. "There is no question of getting the product approval process back again because food safety regulations are based on the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. And the Act does not indicate anywhere that food business operators should be subjected to a product approval process if they have used ingredients in their products as per law. If they are looking to get the product approval process back again, this time through the regulation route, then they will have to amend the Act. Because all food safety regulations are based on the Food Safety and Standards Act," said GV Kamath, director, Vital Neutraceuticals. The company and the IDMA, which was a party to the Bombay High Court case last year, will write to the Prime Minister's Offifce (PMO) and the health and food processing ministries apprising them of the situation. The letter was expected to go out in the next week, Kamath said, in view of the "urgency of the matter". Ashish Bahuguna, FSSAI chairman, when contacted today, said, "Once regulations are formulated, the process of approvals can be re-introduced." He did not disclose when this was expected. But sources said it could take up to a year. Some food safety experts have questioned the regulator's stance, saying if the list of ingredients under the food safety regulations of 2011 is being expanded then why consider regulating product approvals".

We all remember another such episode involving this so called "Authority"when it tried to punish the noodle industry whatever its intention was by orchestrating a safety scare openly propagating a story that the products made by them are poisonous and dangerous. It further banned them resulting in a loss of Rs 450 crore by the manufacturers who were forced to burn the residual stock. Imagine the loss of this unfortunate victim of FSSAI vendetta as it could not manufacture and market the product for more than 3 months till the the ban as lifted by the court. Probably this Authority will again get a rap on its knuckle if such arbitrary and dictatorial measures of insisting on prior approval of all products and their variants are brought through backdoor in order to quench its ever increasing hunger for brutal authority to lord over the food industry in India!


No comments: