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FSSAI to examine food ingredients using scientific measures before nod
Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
FSSAI would examine new ingredients used in food preparations through rigorous scientific measures before giving any approval for their use.

This was stated by Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive officer, FSSAI, at the fifth essay of a public lecture series on food safety assessment – novel ingredients and additives.

It was jointly organised by FSSAI and the Confederation of Indian Industry and Hindustan Unilever Ltd (CII-HUL) Initiative on Food Safety Sciences (CHIFSS).  

Agarwal added that their scientific evaluation was needed, and stated, “It is imperative for the authority to have the safety evaluation of all the new ingredients through a rigorous scientific and risk assessment based framework.”

“FSSAI thus ensures that the foods consumed and sold within our country are safe,” he said.

The country’s apex food regulator, in a recent move, has also decided to overhaul the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, with a comprehensive review and proposed several amendments. One such amendment was regarding novel food.

FSSAI has decided to separate the definitions of proprietary food and novel food, which are governed under Section 22 (4)of the Act currently as such food for which standards have not been specified, but is not unsafe, provided that it uses only approved ingredients.

Now the regulator has proposed to insert Section 22(5) in the Act to define novel food. According to the proposed definition, novel food means food for which standards have not been laid down and is produced by such method that has not been used previously, and such food does not have any significant history of human consumption in the country.

Dr Shweta Khandelwal, senior research scientist and associate professor, Public Health Foundation of India, said that certain background information on the presentation and use of a novel food or food ingredient was necessary to establish its safety and help identify the need, if any, for additional studies to facilitate the assessment of toxicological and nutritional safety.

“This includes details like name or denomination, source, origin (plant/animal/ microorganism/genetic), method of production, previous history, purpose, use, etc.,” she added.

“The product must, therefore, be backed by rigorous scientific argument and the results of the safety assessment must be reproducible and acceptable to the responsible health authorities,” Dr Khandelwal said.

“Furthermore, the product must also satisfy and convince the consumer. Novel foods should be at least as safe as traditional counterparts. All these details help to ensure that the novel ingredient being used is of acceptable quality and will in no way cause harm to public health,” she added.

Dr Khandelwal added that she hoped the process for determination of safe limits and related interactions for each novel food ingredient, etc., was duly carried out and strictly adhered to.

The science labs testing these should uphold high standards of rigour in carrying out necessary tests, etc. Trained personnel, infrastructure and high quality are quite critical, and thus, should match up in upholding the statement made by senior authorities.

Meanwhile, Paul Hepburn, programme director, food and refreshment, Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC), Unilever, United Kingdom, delivered a key talk at the event hosted by CII and HUL, which had collaboratively set up CHIFSS, and had subsequently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with FSSAI in 2016 in order to promote science-based food safety.
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