The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) along with event partners International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Maryland India Business Round Table (MIBRT) of the United States organized the two day Ninth National Food Safety and Quality Summit in New Delhi recently. The theme of the Summit was Excellence in Food Safety and Quality for Consumer Safety and Competitiveness. The event was well attended by both Indian and global food safety and quality professionals.
Besides discussing the means by which food safety, quality and competitiveness of the food chain could be brought to global standards in India the event also provided a massive opportunity to network with others in the industry. At the ‘Master Class’ the 200 participants gained insights about the current food safety and quality trends in other countries.
The opening address was made by Mayank Jalan, managing director, Keventer Agro. He talked about the importance of food processing and need for food safety in the country. He praised the work of CII national committee of food processing in harmonisation of standards and for creating awareness about the food safety management systems. He said that global practices could be developed through a set mechanism.
Mr. Ajit Kumar, vice-chancellor, National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) in his keynote suggested that traditional Indian recipes be standardized. He also suggested that protocols should be prepared for each step in the food chain which includes farmers, transporters, handlers, wholesalers and retailers.
The Food Safety and Standards Regulations (FSSR), 2011 are mandated to work consistently to provide the harmonization of domestic and international standards. Mr. Sanjay Dave, advisor, FSSAI said that the harmonization of the Indian horizontal standards with Codex is almost complete and to a large extent approved by the FSSAI. The notification of standards is likely to begin by January 2015 after the approval of the ministry. The food additives draft however, has yet to go to the scientific committee and only thereafter to the authority.
Mr. Dave said that since the implementation of these standards is likely to begin six months after the notification in January 2015 the industry should be prepared for standards. They also need to ensure that raw material suppliers comply with standards. These standards are largely in line with the international standards, and there would be a level playing field with international players.
FSSAI horizontal standards and the general standards for food additives are ready but only 40% of the vertical standards are complete. The vertical standards for milk, fish and their products are 100% complete but only 49% of vertical standards for fresh fruit and vegetables is complete. While work is progressing in meat-related products, alcoholic beverages and spices and livestock products work on cereals and related products is very slow.
The work of harmonization of standards has been entrusted to 67 electronic working groups. Out of these 49 are in charge of vertical standards related to commodities like fruit, vegetables and their products, milk, fish and meat products, cereals and spices, while the remainder are in charge of horizontal standards related to microbiological contaminants, antibiotic and veterinary drugs, heavy metals, maximum residue limits (MRL) and pesticide residues.
FSSAI and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) are also working together to set up the standards of processed fruits and vegetables.
Anil Jauhari, chief executive officer, National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) laid emphasis on the fact that Indian trade would increase if food was safe and met international standards. Dean Runghetta, assistant director, USFDA, highlighted the importance of the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA). He said that that the exchange of technical information between the countries about safety issues would also facilitate trade.
Dr John McDermot, director, IFPRI, highlighted the need for research and transformation of the food value chain which required the private and public sector to work in sync. Similar thoughts were echoed by Carl Sciacchitano, country director, United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) when he said that all stake holders needed to be proactive if safety measures were to have a solid foundation. Prof. Dr Gerhard Rudolf Rechkemmer on the other hand, spoke about the need to have a scientific basis for risk assessment. He brought to the knowledge of the audience the German research landscape and spoke about the work of the German research council and research institutes.
Bobby Krishna, principal food inspection officer, Dubai Municipality, highlighted the challenges faced by Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) countries. He spoke of the need for a data layout plan for risk management, traceability to prevent outbreaks and harmonization of standards across countries.
Ian Urquart, director, regulatory affairs, GSK Consumer Healthcare on the other hand spoke about the need to have control systems that are proportional to the risks so that innovation and consumer protection could be balanced. He said that consumer confidence could be won by having in place appropriate risk management procedures and competitive innovations
Dr Nimish Shah, director, Safety and Environment Assurance Centre, Unilever, stated that India needed an academic institute that would focus only on food safety through detailed scientific study that would find the relation between causative agent and diseases.