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“FSSA is helping to check adulteration at all levels”
Monday, 08 April, 2013, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Satej Patil, minister of state for Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maharashtra, is focussing all his energies to make FDA a priority for the state. Among the various steps that he has taken include meeting finance minister P Chidambaram seeking an enhancement in FDA budget. The minister delves into the detail in a conversation with Abhitash Singh. Excerpts:

What initiatives is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) taking to curb incidence of adulteration in Maharashtra?
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) implemented a new Act all over India in 2006. And the Act is a very good one, which is helping to check adulteration at all levels. For instance, adulteration of milk takes place during transportation, distribution and logistics. But now we are having strict check to curb incidence of milk adulteration in Maharashtra. Earlier there was little punishment for milk adulterators but now strict action is taken against them. If adulterators do not abide by the new Act of FSSAI they will face the consequences. The maximum punishment for adulterator will be 10 years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

FDA Maharashtra is said to be facing manpower problems. What steps are being taken by FDA to sort out these problems?
Earlier FDA was not a priority sector for the government. But after taking the portfolio of food and drug administration, I am taking it seriously and have made the government think about it. Other departments of the government are not concerned about everyone. But food department is concerned about more than 100 crore population of the country. Now the government has come forward to make this department strong and instead of just Rs 1 crore budget provision, it is increasing the budget for this department. This new budget will help in increasing the manpower, infrastructure like laboratories and mobile laboratories and other facilities, which are needed for the development of FDA.

The deadline for licensing and registration for FBOs has been extended by FSSAI. What initiatives will be taken by FDA to complete the procedure on time?
In Maharashtra, more than 3,57,000 food business operators (FBOs) are registered and licensed and revenue worth more than Rs 63 crore has been collected. Recently, I met the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) chairman K Chandramouli and had a word with him regarding outsourcing the licensing and registration work, because government cannot handle this alone. Even the registration fee should be increased from Rs 100 to Rs 200. We are leading in the country in the licensing and registration process and will be the first state to complete it before the deadline.

Let us know in detail about the separate budget for FDA.
Yes, there should be separate budget for FDA. I had a word with finance minister about having separate budget for FDA and making it priority sector to which he has given assurances. Now FDA budget is under medical and education department. If it is brought out from medical and education department we will have a major say in the working. And thus we will succeed in getting more budget for FDA. We are also proposing a separate secretary for FDA department.

What steps is FDA taking in order to provide safe food to the people of Maharashtra?
We are taking the safety measures very seriously. Those who are involved in providing unsafe, adulterated food will be booked and strict action will be taken against them. Recently the team of FDA officials raided the wheat godown at Chandrapur in Maharashtra. Wheat worth Rs 1.25 crore was raided. We stopped the wheat to come into the market.

What steps are you taking at personal level to make people aware about the safety of foods?

We have done lots of milk adulteration campaigns and continuing with them in various parts of Maharashtra. We are holding awareness camps for both FBOs as well as customers to make them aware about the importance of safety of foods. We are also creating awareness among masses through radio jingle, TV ads, pamphlets and newspaper advertisements. We also taught women in various places about the method of cutting milk packets so that they cannot be reused.
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