FSSAI & Maggie controversy

About FSSAI:
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.
  • It was created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
  • The Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are appointed by Government of India.
  • The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.
Important functions performed by the authority:
  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.
  • To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition .
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc. receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training programmes for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.
“…it is the unorganised sector that is much more likely to poison consumers or make them sick.” In the light of recent controversy over the presence of poisonous chemicals in a noodle brand belonging to an organized retailer, critically comment on the statement. (200 Words)
Recent incidence of higher than permitted lead content in one of noodle brand of an organised retailer brought in focus the often neglected issue of safety of food products.
If such is condition of organised branded food products then we can imagine the standard of quality in unorganised and street food where no attention is paid to quality, hygiene and food safety.
On the face of it, it does appear that organised sector (branded) food products would be safer compared to unorganised due to following reasons:
  1. There is a system of testing and quality control in place in organised sector
  2. Organised players, being brand conscious, do not want to compromise with consumer safety as it can be highly detrimental and counterproductive to their brand and profitability.
  3. Organised retailer often has fear of inspection and required to maintain a modicum of quality in order to obtain BIS and other certification.
But these differences can easily evaporate if we consider the other factors like lax enforcement of food laws, lack of manpower and resources at disposal of inspection authorities, rampant corruption and overall poor quality culture in India.
So the need of hour is, to have a risk based framework of rules and regulation applicable over entire supply chain applicable to both organised and informal sector with focus on ensuring consumer’s safety. This needs to be done in tandem with enhancing capacity and competence of food safety and standard authorities with focus on manpower augmentation and capacity building. There is a dearth of authorised labs and the existing labs are overwhelmed with the work. So, number of labs must be increased. Also consumer awareness needs to be increased along with more disclosure of ingredients. The consumer grievance redressal mechanism needs to be strengthened so that producers fear the deterrent effect of fine and punishment to comply with regulation.

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