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Highlights of the Review of the Food Safety and Standards Authority's Activities in 2010-2011
Monday, 17 January, 2011, 20 : 00 PM [IST]
Item No.1 - Constitution of Authority and its associated bodies

Till date, six meetings of the Food Authority and two meetings of the Central Advisory Committee have been held. All the Scientific Panels and Scientific Committee have held their initial meetings. Some Panels also have met more than once. The procedure for operations of the Panels has been approved and they have initiated the process of drawing up their agenda for action. It is expected that all new proposals relating to determination of standards will now be considered first by the Scientific Panel and then the Scientific Committee before they are put up for consideration by the Authority.

Item No.2 - Integration of Staff

The 250 personnel who have been taken from various Ministries are now on "deemed deputation" with the Food Authority. The new structure of the Authority has been finalised and additional staff approved by the Government. The staff regulations are under finalisation and employees will now be given an option for remaining with the Food Authority or reverting to the Government. The Food Authority has also initiated the process of filling up of the posts which have been approved by the Government.

Item No.3 - New FSSA Rules and Regulations

The draft FSSAI Rules have been forwarded to the Ministry for notification. These lay down the governance structure of the Act and the roles of various implementing agencies. Draft Regulations have been finalised and will be sent to the Ministry by the end of January, 2011 for notification. It is expected that after the mandatory period of consultations, this can be finally rolled out all over the country during the next few months. On the basis of extensive consultations and regional workshops, State Governments have been sensitised to the provisions of the new FSS Act and guided on the steps to be taken by them for its operationalisation. During the year 2011, Food Authority will work closely with each State to effect the transition from Prevention of Food Adulteration Act to Food Safety and Standards Act, designate the new functionaries, introduce the provisions of the new Act and help upgrade their regulatory institutions.

Item No.4 - Norms for Trans Fats

On the basis of detailed risk assessment and scientific review by the Expert Group and the Scientific Committee, the norms for trans facts have now been approved by the Authority for being sent to the Government for notification. This marks a significant step forward to regulate the content of trans fatty acids in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. This item is also one of the priority items identified by the Government for operationalisation keeping in view the effect of TFA on cardiovascular health.

Item No.5 - Regulations for Food Claims

The draft regulations for food claims have been drawn up and will be released for consultations shortly. These regulations lay down the provisions relating to making food claims, the scientific basis for making such claims and appropriate regulatory steps for ensuring that the claims are not misleading. This was a major lacuna in the Prevention of Food Adulteration law under which detailed regulations are not available relating to determination of claims. The present regulation attempts to fill this gap.

Item No.6 - Codex Alimentarius

The Food Authority has been attending meetings of the Codex Alimentarius and raising issues of concern to India relating to determination of various products. Among the issues which have now been taken up under Codex by Indian delegations are standards relating to apple, standards for chilli sauce, procedure for cross border inspections and draft standards for infant food. Shadow Committees have been set up in various Ministries relating to specific areas and a National Codex Contact Point located within the Food Authority coordinating the work of the Shadow Committees. The country position is finalised by the Authority and forwarded to the Ministry for approval.

Item No.7 - Genetically Modified Food

Though the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act include genetically modified food, recently government has been considering a proposal to establish the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India as the nodal point for regulating GM food. In view of this, FSSAI has not operationalised the provisions relating to GM food. However, Food Authority would continue to be responsible for the labelling and other safety related issues of GM food.

Item No.8 - Training Programme and Capacity Building

Orientation programmes for food safety professionals have been carried out by the Authority at regional levels covering all the States. This will now be followed up by more in-depth training for Designated Officers and Adjudicating Officers. The objective is to develop training capacity at the State level so that this can be taken forward by the State Governments. Training modules are also being developed in association with the Indian Institute for Public Health and Indira Gandhi National Open University for capacity building and imparting skills to consumers, house-wives, regulatory staff and food handlers. FSSAI proposes also to collaborate with UNIDO to develop and implement hands on training for food testing and laboratory professionals.

Item No.9 - Accreditation and certification of Food Safety Systems

The draft guidelines for accreditation and certification of food safety systems have been drawn up. These are now being reviewed and will be the basis for the food safety management systems to be adopted by the Authority as the standard for industry. Item No.10 - Working with Non - Governmental Organisations, Panchayats, Consumer bodies etc. The Food Safety and Standards Authority has developed a scheme for supporting NGOs for disseminating food safety messages, capacity building etc. Consumer organisations are also involved in formulating the country position relating to various Codex issues. Consumer input is also taken regarding finalisation of various standards, communication campaigns, and other capacity building initiatives.

Item No.11 - Centres of Excellence

The Food Authority has drawn up a scheme for establishing Centres of Excellence at national institutions. In the first phase, National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the National Institute of Nutrition have been identified for working with the Authority in areas of standards for milk safety, safety practices in milk processing units and nutritional issues. An Action Plan for milk safety has been drawn up and is being operationalised in association with various stakeholders.

Item No.12 - Upgradation of Laboratories

On the basis of GAP analysis reports prepared, Food Authority proposes to identify one laboratory in each State with a view to upgrade it to the acceptable levels of reliability. The mechanism for hand holding these laboratories to improve their skills, protocols and testing methods is under way. The draft regulations relating to accreditation of labs are also being finalised. Draft standards for food testing laboratories have been drawn up.

Item No.13 - Revision of Food Standards

The strategy and principles for revision of food standards have been approved by the Authority. Starting from the current year, it is proposed to take up each sub-sector to see whether any revisions or refinements are required in food standards keeping in view the developments in science, industry and consumer safety.

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