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FSSAI frames strategy for harmonising Indian food standards with Codex
Monday, 25 February, 2013, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Akshay Kalbag, Mumbai
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country's apex food regulator, has formulated a strategy – comprising four annexures – to take up the task of harmonising India's food standards with those laid down by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, established by the United Nations' World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Sanjay Dave, chairman, Codex Alimentarius Commission – who is also the advisor to FSSAI – said, “The objective of the FSSAI, which aims at food safety as a nationwide movement, is to lay down science-based standards for food articles and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.”

“To meet this objective, FSSAI must follow an inclusive approach by utilising the wisdom of all stakeholders in the country and discuss all relevant issues through a transparent process of consultation and iron out all conflicting opinions on the basis of scientific evidence. One of the immediate tasks in hand is to review the food safety standards situation in the country,” he stated.

Many standards in the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, have been drawn from the provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. However, there is a demand for the review of these standards, taking into account the latest developments in food science across the globe, food consumption pattern, new specifications, the presence of new contaminants and toxins and the use of new food additives and ingredients required by food producers.

“We also need to consider the development of new standards and texts wherever necessary while taking cognisance of the developments in an environment of open market in India. Needless to say that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) encourages harmonisation of the national standards, guidelines and best practices with those of the Codex and provide an equal opportunity to all stakeholders in the food business,” Dave said.

Annexure-I is the strategy paper for harmonisation. Being a huge task, it requires the participation of all experts in the fields of food regulatory affairs, scientific research, food and nutrition, food technology, policy or academia. They must be identified on the basis of their interest in contributing and experience in the subject matter as they would utilise the available scientific and regulatory information for the expected outcome.

To facilitate the process, it is necessary to identify the current areas and volumes of work involved and explain the strategy, scope of work, guidelines for working groups, timelines, format and procedure for forwarding nominations, selection criteria, etc. Detailed documents have been prepared and shown as icons in Annexure-II, titled Guidance Document on Vertical Standards. These icons are numbered as Attachments 1-12.

FSSAI recommends that those who wish to participate in the process of harmonisation study Annexure-III (Guidance to the Nominees), which explains their contribution to the process. This would enable them to decide what role they would like to play in the country's food standards development process. They should fill the nomination form (Annexure-IV) and forward the same   to FSSAI via e-mail (fssaiharmonisation@gmail.com) by March 20, 2013.
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