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Intersectoral co-operation key to achieve goal of food safety : Sharma
Thursday, 02 April, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
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Bhanu Pratap Sharma, secretary (health & family welfare), Government of India, and chairperson, FSSAI, has urged for an intersectoral convergence and enforcement at all levels to achieve the goal of food safety across the food chain. He was speaking at a national consultation organised on Wednesday to mark the upcoming World Health Day, which would be celebrated on April 7.

Sharma stated, “There is a need for greater awareness and giving correct information to all stakeholders along with intersectoral cooperation.”

The consultation was organised by ministry of health & family welfare (MoHFW) and World Health Organisation (WHO) for promoting food safety, the theme of this year’s World Health Day.

The consultation brought together all stakeholders, from farm to plate, to discuss integration of ‘food safety’ into the broader food policy agenda and informing producers and consumers about the vital importance of safe food, and its impact on public health.

Sharma felt that standards needed to be set up with awareness campaigns to make informed choices. He added that success lies in full public participation.

Y S Malik, CEO, FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), in his address said that the apex food regulator in its endeavour to achieve the goal of food safety had enabled 3.3 million licences and registration so far along with 19,000 Central licences. He said that while newer challenges emerged in recent past due to increased global food trade, there was need to place interventions in every level of the food trade.

“We have decided to increase the scientific panels to achieve development of vertical standards. Further to boost the food safety, the number of labs are being increased,” he said, while adding that lab facilities in states needed boost.

In her World Health Day message, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, World Health Organisation, South-East Asia Region, said, “Political awareness and consumer education on food safety will help to strengthen enforcement of food standards, improve hygienic practices, and prevent foodborne illnesses. The most pertinent of all the measures is creating awareness among people to ensure that their food is safe.”

Speaking at the national consultation, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India, said, “Food safety is an issue of growing public health concern. To achieve food safety, strong functional links must be built between the public health and other sectors to ensure effective cross-sectoral collaboration.”

“In India, food safety has obvious and direct linkages with the Swachh Bharat initiative of the prime minister that promotes cleanliness and hygiene, which are the key factors influencing food safety, thereby reducing the socio-economic impact of foodborne illnesses,” she added.

The objective of the World Health Day, this year, is to catalyse collective government and public action to put measures in place that will improve safety of food by aligning policies in agriculture, trade, health, education and social protection to provide a safe and healthy diet for all.

Addressing issues related to food safety and food control systems, the panel discussion at the national consultation saw active deliberations on the need for multisectoral collaboration from food production to consumption and cooperation from all sectors for compliance of food standards.

Acknowledging the need to further improve the food safety systems, the forum extensively deliberated on the issues of production, regulations, nutrition, unhealthy food, safety of street food, consumer awareness, animal-human interface of foodborne diseases and strengthening surveillance of these diseases in India.

The consultation strongly advocated that the governments must partner with civil society, NGOs, private sector and consumers, to ensure that safe food becomes everybody’s business. Perspectives on ‘Serving Safe Food’ were presented by Akshayapatra and National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), emphasising the importance of safe food.

On the occasion, the WHO Country Office for India awarded Public Health Champions for outstanding contribution to public health in India. These awards are an attempt to recognise and honour the best in the field in order to encourage them to press forward and others to emulate them.

The award winners were SEWA Rural; Community Health Department, Christian Medical College, Vellore; Biocon Foundation; and Dr Vinod K Paul, AIIMS; for sustained contribution to public health. In the category of innovation, the awardees were Narayana Health and Ekjut.

State-level consultations on the theme of World Health Day will also be held at Bangalore, Kolkata, Patna and Raipur.

Present at the consultation were Keshav Desiraju, secretary, department of consumer affairs, Government of India; Dr Jagdish Prasad, director-general, health services, MoHFW; Anshu Prakash, joint secretary, MoHFW; Sudhanshu Pandey, joint secretary, ministry of commerce; Kumar Singh, joint secretary, ministry of agriculture; and Dr S Venkatesh, director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), MoHFW, amongst other eminent industry experts, non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations.
 
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