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Change to FSSR after consultation with Govt, panels, indicates Chandramouli
Thursday, 29 March, 2012, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Anurag More, Mumbai
K Chandramouli, chairperson, FSSAI (Food Safety & Standards Authority of India), has indicated the Tamilnadu Foodgrains Merchants Association Ltd that a change in the August 5-implemented Food Safety and Standards Regulations 2011 could be possible after due consultation with the government, scientific committee and scientific panels.

He gave this assurance while speaking to the association representatives at a protest organised by them in Chennai on Wednesday. While the association is keen for an early solution to the issue, the entire consultation and review process for the amendment is likely to take at least 19 months.

Shankar, secretary, Tamilnadu Foodgrains Merchants Association Ltd, explained FnB News over the telephone, "The Act will force small and medium level food business operators out of their business. Hence, we are seeking few changes in the Act, so that it will help small food business operators."

He added, "In the current format, the Act will only help multinational companies. Further, India is a vast country and climatic conditions differ from region to region, so the food and agricultural products will differ. Therefore, there should be changes made to the Act." The association is also seeking a shorter and quicker review process.

The association has written to the authority on the shortcomings of the regulation, thus;

1. Government of India has enacted the FSSA 2006 from August 5, 2011. Though this law has been enacted, the state level authorities who are in charge of implementing this Act, are lacking knowledge and cannot give explanations regarding this Act. Only during the last month, they are attending awareness programmes conducted by various associations. We request you to conduct more awareness programmes both for the authorities as well as trade bodies in this business and then implement the Act. Further we feel that enacting this Act now, will force small and medium level food business operators out of their business and make way for the multinational companies and big Indian players.

2. Present food quality standards are more like American and European standards. These developed countries mainly import agricultural produce from other countries for their need. But India is mainly an agriculture-based country, our agriculture contributes more than 51% of our GDP. We harvest many types of cereals, pulses and grains and are mainly dependent on climatic conditions. Our soil quality, climatic conditions differ throughout the country and fertiliser and pesticide input to the soil has also definitely changed our quality of the agricultural produces.

The quality standards defined for commodities in Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 is almost same as that of old PFA Act, 1954. During this period of say almost 55 years our soil quality, climatic conditions, fertilisers and pesticide input to the soil must have changed. So these facts have to be definitely considered while setting up the quality standards.

3. Unexpected torrential rain can damage the crops during harvest. Qualities like nutritional value, proteins, sugar content, and moisture of the damaged grains may not be exactly matching with the standards of the new Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. We request you to consider these facts, and not describe these qualities as an adulterant, instead allow us to market these products with low quality value as 'substandard' printed on their labels.

4. In FSS Act "Adulterant" means any material which is or could be employed for making food unsafe or substandard, misbranded or containing extraneous matter. "Substandard" and "Misbranded" should be deleted in this definition as it is not in the nature of Adulteration.

5. "Misbranded Food" defined in the Section 3(1) is focussing mainly on misleading or deceptive claims, contents on the package or label etc. which has nothing to do with the food product and its contents. The "Misbranded Food" deviates from adulterated food as both terms altogether connote with distinct meaning and therefore misbranded food product cannot be said to be adulterated and vice versa. Adulteration is a heinous crime and it cannot be equated or treated on par with any infirmity for non-compliance in the printing of label or package called misbranded. Thus, the offence of misbranding has to be dealt with separately with lesser fine otherwise it would be nothing but mere harassment and unreasonable to treat the unequal equally.

6. Government before enforcing the FSSA 2006 should establish quality control food analytical laboratories in every district and fix reasonable charges. Government should also give accreditation to the labs, serving this field and encourage them by giving reasonable subsidies.

7. Since the contents of agricultural produce vary from place to place depending on climatic conditions, nature of soil, pesticide and fertiliser usage, nutrient levels also vary due to different storage conditions and climate. Hence the law should allow declaring "approximate" nutritional values instead of "exact" values.

8. Only single licence system should be enough for a food business operator. When a manufacturer sells his products through mobile van, he is forced to take licence in each and every village the van travels. This is cumbersome procedure and humanly impossible. Hence this has to be changed.

For a food item if no standards are prescribed, it is classified as "proprietary food." The Act insists the manufacturer to get licence for each proprietary food. Licensing procedures should be made simple and one licence will help the manufacturer to concentrate on his growth rather than going to pillar to post for getting licences.

9. If changes are announced regarding labels the law should permit 12 months time to change the labels due to practical difficulties in it.

10. The picture of gulab jamoon or chicken pieces, poori printed on the label should not be treated as "Misbranded."

11. Regarding the "Principal Display Panel" of the label, the unnecessary confusion should be withdrawn. It is enough if the declaration regarding weight, price and nutritional contents should be printed in a legible manner, so that it can be seen easily by the consumer.

12. In conventional foods certain preservatives, colors, flavours etc., need to be added in certain proportions as per GMP without which such products cannot be manufactured.

Example: Appalam (South Indian Pappad) is manufactured with rice flour, urad dhall flour as its main raw materials along with salt, edible oil, sodium bicarbonate asafoetida in small quantities. The Act prohibits sodium bicarbonate and insists on sorbic acid. Sodium bicarbonate is not harmful to health and is allowed to use in other food products such as instant mixes and is commonly used in household kitchens. Appalam manufacturing is a traditional cottage industry and without using this ingredient, manufacture of Appalam is not possible. Hence the conditions stipulated for the manufacture of proprietary food should be removed or allowed to use as per GMP so as to manufacture conventional foods without any problems.

13. The new FSS Act insists food business operators or manufacturers should employ Supervisor with technical qualification, at least a degree in science for their food processing units. To avoid the practical problems, the new rule must be amended as food business operator should employ supervisor with technical qualification when the strength of the workers working in their units crosses above 100 persons.

 
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