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Feature
Quality assurance in food processing industry
Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Chetan Kothari
The agriculture sector has come a long way since Independence. With the onset of green revolution, India has transformed itself from a country of shortages to one of surpluses. The rapid growth of the economy has also provided a shift in the consumption pattern, from cereals to more varied and nutritious diet of fruit and vegetables. This has resulted in the development of the food processing industry.

The food processing sector in the country with its vast potential has emerged as one of the major drivers of economic growth. It is encouraging to note that Economic Outlook has pegged GDP growth rate for 2011-12 at 8.2% in spite of the EU crisis and other issues being faced. The food processing industry in India is growing at 14% annum.



India is a country of over 1.21 billion consumers, 300 million upper and middle-class consume processed food. There is a large untapped domestic market of 1,000 million consumers in the food processing sector and 300 million more consumers are expected to shift to processed food by 2012. It is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world. Further, India has tremendous potential to unleash large- scale process-based farm activities to exploit the emerging global business opportunities.

Incredible opportunities

India’s homogeneous market size endowed with growing incomes and changing lifestyles has created incredible market opportunities for food producers, machinery makers, food technology and service providers. Food processing industries has great export and employment potential. The policies are investor-friendly and more importantly technological and human resources are available aplenty in the country. The competitive edge enjoyed in terms of raw material and labour offers lucrative opportunities.



However, poor perception of quality and the indifferent image of Indian products are preventing Indian food products to penetrate global markets in a big way. While developing countries like Thailand have exploited the global markets in a big way by fine-tuning quality management aspects of their food processing industry, India is yet to make headway on this front.

Rules & regulations

The Indian government is making headway in quality assurance in the food processing industry by bringing in various rules and regulations. One can see them being well-implemented at various food fairs as well as industry body events taking place across the country throughout the year. Various laboratories are also being set up with the help of government for research and development in quality management. The rules and regulations are also looked into from time to time by industry body and the industry. Some of the vital rules and regulations that comprise the growing awareness of quality assurance include:

● Fruit Products Order, 1955, promulgated under Section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, aims at regulating sanitary and hygienic conditions in manufacture of fruit & vegetable products. Besides this, maximum limits of preservatives, additives and contaminants have also been specified for various products.

● The draft specifications in respect of 61 products have been discussed by the Central Fruit Products Advisory Committee and recommended to the government for adoption. 

● A number of prestigious laboratories have been assisted in upgrading facilities for finding the quality revolution in the country.

● The introduction of preventive approaches such as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point System (HACCP), have resulted in the industry taking greater responsibility for and control of food safety risks. Such an integrated approach facilitates improved consumer protection, effectively stimulates agriculture and the food processing industry, and promotes domestic and international food trade. The installation of ISO: 9000 Quality Management Systems and HACCP- based food safety system is extremely desirable in view of the changing scenario in the international trade. Under the scheme of Quality Assurance 22 Food Testing Labs have been assisted and 14 units under HACCP/ ISO certification have been assisted.

● The ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI) is implementing the Scheme of Research and Development and Quality Control to enable adherence to stringent quality and hygiene norms to face global competition and export. It is also providing financial assistance to support research and experiment and adoption of food safety and quality assurance mechanism to keep the Indian food processing industry, technologically abreast of international best practices.

● The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an intergovernmental body that coordinates food standards at the international level. Its main objectives are to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade. The CAC has proved to be most successful in achieving international harmonisation in food quality and safety requirements.

● The conclusion of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in Marrakech led to the establishment of the WTO on January 1, 1995, and to the coming into force of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Both these agreements are relevant in understanding the requirements for food protection measures at the national level, and the rules under which food is traded internationally.

● The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have formulated scientific principles and guidelines, which address all sectors of the food chain.

Greater responsibility

Effective national food control systems are essential to protect the health and safety of domestic consumers. They are also critical in enabling other countries to assure the safety and quality of their foods entering international trade and to ensure that imported foods conform to national requirements. The new global environment for food trade places considerable obligations on both importing and exporting countries to strengthen their food control systems and to implement and enforce risk-based food control strategies. Consumers are taking unprecedented interest in the way food is produced, processed and marketed, and are increasingly calling for their respective governments to accept greater responsibility for food safety and consumer protection.

Production of high quality processed foods meeting international quality standards & regulations may very well open new frontiers for Indian food products. This will not only create a dynamic and competitive domestic food processing industry but will also enable India to become a major player in the global food market. An attitudinal change towards quality is essential.



(The writer is chairman, Tricom Fruit Products Ltd. He can be contacted at 022-66907800)

(Source: MoFPI, FAO & WHO)
 
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