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Anti-FSSA agitation intensifies; trade leaders to deliberate at national meet
Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Akshay Kalbag, Mumbai
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The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) is organising a national conference of trade leaders in New Delhi on May 10 and 11, 2012. The controversial Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006 is on top of the agenda.

Confirming the news, B C Bhartia, CAIT's Nagpur-based secretary-general, told FnB News, “The Act is not broad-based. In fact, we believe it is of no relevance to the country; it seems the rules and regulations merely ape the West. Anyway, it favours multi-national companies.”

“Overseas, people eat ready-to-eat foods. A 'best-before' date is printed on every pack. Here, we buy ingredients from the market and use them to cook food. We see absolutely no point in printing information on the pack if it is not going to be used,” he said.

“Coming back to the Act, its motive is pretty clear. Those who framed these draconian and unreasonable rules and regulations obviously support foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. Food business operators are a major constituent of the retail business,” Bhartia said.

“Our issue is against those who are keen to wipe out our local food industries, especially the small and petty manufacturers and vendors, and ensure that the market becomes flooded with expensive branded products,” he explained.

“We will raise this in our meeting with the Food Authority on May 2 as well. There are over 70 issues to discuss with them. Our objections to every contentious Section of the Act will be put forth,” Bhartia stated.

“Multi-nationals will ensure that every product is sold in a packed condition. The traditional Indian food business operators will not even be able to compete with large Indian corporate if this ridiculous rule were made compulsory,” he said.

“We can't understand why those who drafted the Act are so eager to hike the prices. In addition to that, we'll have to deal with food audits and stringent food testing norms. They now insist that samples of raw material can only be analysed in accredited labs,” Bhartia said.

“The traditional food business operators will have to bear the increased financial burden of non-product expenses. And as a result, the consumers will be forced to pay more when they buy their wares,” he said.

“Throughout the supply chain, a stipulated temperature has to be maintained. It is possible to do so in the West, where the weather conditions are more or less the same. In India, it is mostly hot and humid, and there are variations,” Bhartia said.

“And there's the Inspector Raj, which is getting consolidated. If you give them the kind of powers this Act vests in them, they'll obviously abuse them in the name of 'doing their duty'. The small and petty food business operators wil also have to keep records,” he explained.

“However, our main grouse,” said Bhartia, “is that adulteration, which this Act's predecessor (the Prevention of Fodo Adulteration Act, 1954) aimed at curbing, has virtually been ignored in the new Act. Instead of this heinous crime, it defines misbranded and sub-standard food.”
 
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