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A smooth ride ahead for FSSAI, finally
Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Manjushree Naik
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Seamless implementation of the Food Safety & Standards Regulations, 2011, in the country has posed to be a gigantic task for the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for the last one year. The problems on the food safety path have been too many. To begin with, lack of proper lab testing facilities has been a pressing issue.

But a look at what the Twelfth Plan has in store offers some hope. First, according to S N Mohanty, FSSAI CEO, by the end of the Plan, there will be about 200 food testing labs. In addition, there will be 70 intermediate labs and 30 referral labs. And the investment for all these labs is going to be a whopping Rs 25,000 to 30,000 crore. Not only that, the CEO has also standardised the lab testing parameters, thus bringing uniformity in the procedure and avoiding ambiguity. Further, the CEO is confident that the average testing time now is five days and it is going to get better with time. Looking at all these measures, in the next couple of years, in all possibility, the implementing authorities will finally be able to get their act together.

Another crucial area that may not be part of the Twelfth Plan but needs immediate attention is that in many places and states the number of food safety officers on the rolls of the respective FDAs and FDCAs is not satisfactory. Compared to the Indian population, number of eateries – big and small – and food business operators operating in the country, this figure is abysmal. But the new CEO has claimed that some states have started filling the posts and providing regulatory training to existing FSOs. This is essential as proper testing labs and sufficient number of FSOs, go hand in hand, in ensuring compliance to the stringent provisions of the regulations.

Meanwhile, as far as licensing and registration (the topic that has been evoking strong reactions – protests and representations – for the last few months because of the complex procedure) is concerned, the Authority seems to have simplified the entire procedure by rolling out bundled software for online approval and avoiding issuing physical licences.

Further, the FSSAI is seeking active participation by people – the consumers – in ensuring that the new food law is adopted by the country in its true letter and spirit.

In this regard, the Authority has plans to organise promotional activities to make people aware of the essential elements of the Act, mandatory parameters in starting a food business, clarifications with respect to online and manual licensing and registration systems and knowledge on wholesome foods and hygiene.

All in all, after the teething troubles that the Authority has faced in the initial run of the Act, with the new CEO holding the reins, FSSAI seems to be heading for a smooth ride ahead.
 
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