Food Processing and Safety


  • In India post-harvest losses in food and food grains are around 40-50%
  • The wastage of fruits and vegetables alone is about Rs. 60,000 crore annually. Including cereals, meat, pulses and flowers, the annual loss is estimated to be Rs. 2,50,000 crores
It is argued these days that the reform of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is urgent and essential to ensure the growth of food processing industry in India. Critically examine why. (200 Words)
Recently, there has been arguments about the role of FSSAI in the development of the food processing industry of India especially after the ‘Maggi row’ which was banned in India but the same Maggi was cleared by countries like- Britain, Canada etc. It is argued that reforms of FSSAI is urgent for the development of food processing sector of India because-
  1. There is delay in the clearance of the products by the FSSAI. In present also there are thousands of products which need approval from the FSSAI.
  2. The procedure for testing of safety of product is very cumbersome because there is no mention of procedure in Food safety and standard Act. Thus, FSSAI applies procedure according to its own discretion.
  3. Imported materials is stuck at the port Just because they don’t get clearance from the FSSAI as some of them don’t have proper labelling.
  4. In many cases, permission is withheld on the flimsiest of grounds – because the labelling of the packages does not conform to arbitrary norms specified by the FSSAI, which differ from the widely accepted global standards.
These delays and discretions deters foreign companies to invest in the Food processing industry of India. Less than two percent of India’s perishable food products are processed to increase the shelve and to add value in it. For this, there is urgent need to reform the FSSAI but in the process the government has to ensure that standard and safety of food is not compromised. Recently FSSAI has prepared standard procedure for testing of various products which is an welcome move.
Write a critical note on the objectives and performance of the National Mission of Food Processing (NMFP) Scheme . (200 Words)
Food processing levels are quite low in India at 3% when compared to 30-70% in developed countries and wastage of agriculture produce is as high as 40%. National Food Processing Mission was launched to address these problems and create potential for higher revenues. The objectives of the program are:
  1. Promote Primary Processing centers close to the farms and link them with Clusters through hub and spoke models.
  2. Facilitate exports of high value products like Cheese, Peanut butter etc. and encourage such facilities through subsidies.
  3. Develop food processing clusters, Food parks and Agriculture SEZs; Contract farming, Warehouses (Cold chains) development were also given an important role by providing tax rebates. This scheme has resulted in some positive outcomes like
    1. Exports from Agriculture SEZs have increased over the years.
    2. Exports of Meat, Marine products have improved.
    3. FP clusters have been established in Karnataka- Tumkur, AP-Sri city etc.
But the performance of this scheme on the whole has left us much to be desired with.
  1. Warehouses, processing facilities have not been developed.
  2. In the absence of APMC reforms, contract farming and private procurement is virtually absent.
  3. Record productions of sugarcane, ground nuts, and vegetables were seen but wastage was higher as export opportunities shrunk.
It has been a sunrise sector in last few years giving employment to lot of youth. It has provided the link between farmers and industry which in turn increased farmer‘s income and life style. But being a nascent industry it requires lot of improvement in processing of fruit and agricultural products which is only 2% in comparison of brazil and china performing at 40-70%. Value addition to agriculture produce also low at 20%.
NMFP has to be revitalised by taking all adequate steps taking into account all the shortcomings seen observed over the past 3 years.
Food safety laws in India is said to be one of top challenges faced by the food processing industry in India. Critically examine why. (200 Words)
The food processing industry in India is one of the most opportunistic industries with huge possibilities of growth to make its presence at the global scale. With around half the population engaged in agricultural activities, it is often termed as the “sunrise industry” of India. However, the recent issues of food safety pose a serious challenge to it and are deteriorating its international reputation. The recent issues like:
  1. Residue and contamination: The 90s issue of pesticides in Coca-Cola, flies in Alphonso mango export to EU and recent presence of mono sodium glutamate and lead in Maggi.
  2. Onus on manufacturers: Food safety and standards ACT-2006, puts the onus of such issues on the manufacturer but in many cases they don’t have control on the quality of raw materials supplied to them.
  3. Agricultural shortcomings: small farm holdings and heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides in production, the level of which is difficult to monitor each and every produce.
  4. Lack of Infrastructure: Many daily use items reserved for small-scale industries and many manufactured by unorganized sectors, poor infrastructure to match the international standards.
  5. R&D problem: perishable commodities are hoarded, then artificially ripened such as calcium carbide for bananas and mangoes, preservatives etc. Safe and healthy innovative methods need of the hour.
  6. Lack of coherence: Multiple laws have been enacted in India to ensure food safety standards. These laws are implemented by various ministries and departments. However, incoherence and inconsistency creates an environment of confusion in the food sector
  7. Lack of trained manpower: Due to insufficient training and expertise to safety inspectors has resulted in undue harassment of the industry
  8. Missing Global standards: Food safety laws are still not in tune with the global safety practices and hence our food processing exports face action under the SPS agreement.

These problems pose a serious challenge to the food processing industry:
  1. International competition & advantage to developed countries: mechanized farming, international standard of food safety properly followed in developed countries. Indian food exports don’t stand a chance against these products.
  2. WTO restrictions: sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures of WTO checks the safety measures and recently Indian mango and some other food product exports to EU were banned under these SPS measures.
  3. Negative externalities: Such restrictions on an international level send a very negative signal and deteriorate the overall reputation of Indian exports. Though there are challenges at the global level but these needs to be tackled by indigenous R&D to develop technologies to minimize post-harvest losses and prevent accumulation of chemicals in the food supply chain. Recent steps such as FSSA act- 2006, mega food parks, setting up of food processing labs and broad media coverage certainly boosts the confidence of stakeholders and adding to this, financial crunch management and appropriate investment in this industry would be a welcome step.
Enactment of the Food Safety Act and the constitution of Agriculture and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (APEDA), however there is still a huge scope of improvement.
[Additional information:
  1. Contamination of mustard oil with argemone oil in 1998 and contamination of imported milk and infant formula with melamine in 2008 are among the few events that raised food safety concerns among consumers and policymakers in the region and globally.
  2. Some countries have taken novel initiatives like mobile food courts in Bangladesh, the establishment of a food standard and safety authority in India and certification of street food vendors with a “clean food, good taste” logo in Thailand
  3. In 2015, world heath day theme focuses on food safety. ]
Why India needs strong network of Agro Irradiation Centres?
In India post-harvest losses in food and food grains are around 40-50%. It is primarily due to microbiological contamination, insect infestation, physiological changes due to sprouting and ripening, and poor shelf life. The wastage of fruits and vegetables including cereals, meat, pulses and flowers results in the annual loss estimated to be Rs. 2,50,000 crores. There is presence of few low level irradiation plants in the country which are not adequate.  So to reduce the losses in food and food grains and meet the demand it is necessary to increase strong network of agro irradiation centres.



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