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FSSAI fixes five-day deadline for referral labs to submit test reports
Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
FSSAI has prescribed a time limit for referral laboratories to submit the testing reports of their analysis. In an order released by the country’s apex food regulator, it has directed the referral labs to submit their report within five days after the receipt of the samples in case of chemical and microbiological testing. The deadline can be extended to 10 working days, depending on the nature of the analysis involving extended microbiological testing.

In the order, N Bhaskar, advisor, quality and assurance, FSSAI, stated, “The referral labs are hereby directed to send their analysis reports within five working days after the receipt of the samples for chemical as well as microbiological testing and not more than 10 days in case of samples involving extended microbiological testing, like clostridium spores in the case of canned foods.” The order has been implemented with immediate effect.

Under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the designated officer can forward a part of the sample to the referral lab, on the appeal of a FBO against the results of the tests of samples collected by the food safety officer (FSO). And the result of the referral lab will be considered final.

Bhaskar added that however, there wasn’t any time limit prescribed in the rules for the submission of the report by the concerned lab to the designated officer, and therefore, the order has been issued by the FSSAI.

Industry experts opined that this decision would help in the early disposal of cases and reduce the pendency of such cases with the apex regulator.

Ashwin Bhadri, chief executive officer, Equinox Labs, said, “The initiative taken by FSSAI is a noteworthy one, and should have been implied much earlier with respect to the consequences suffered.”

“The time limit prescribed for laboratories will now ensure faster and accurate results. This will lead to immediate actions on receiving the reports by the concerned authorities and will facilitate spontaneous proceedings,” he added.

“In addition to this, a part of the sample which will be sent to referral laboratories will give the final reports, thus cross-checking with the original results,” Bhadri stated.

“This will only add to the efficiency of reports and avoid further confusion and doubts. I feel the new changes that are introduced will certainly prove beneficial in the long run,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention here that the apex regulator has been actively considering the ways and means to reduce the litigation burden to effectively utilise its manpower. Such cases often result into litigations against the food safety department, which consume a large part of the time of the officers.

Meanwhile, the apex food regulator has also released a testing manual for analysis of cereals and cereal products. Bhadri has stated that it was an imperative step taken for the small- and large-scale FBOs, as cereals formed an important part of the diet.

“The quality of the cereals will be either maintained or improved, but would surely not be of a substandard quality. Anything that improves even a minor part benefits the end result. Hence, the manual will help the food industry in unparalleled ways and help retain the quality of the cereals,” he added.
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