The FSSAI recently addressed FBOs during a training programme organized to sensitize them to the rights of consumers and pointed to the fact that consumers have the right to quick and satisfactory resolution of their complaints. The FSSAI asked all food business operators (FBOs) in the country to establish a robust, effective and efficient system of redressing consumer complaints in the food sector.
Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, stated that the FSSAI was working to come up with quantifiable metrics whereby the performance and efficiency of FBOs to resolve consumer complaints would be gauged. CEO emphatically stated, “We want to make sure that no complaint goes unresolved.” Ashish Bahuguna, Chairman, FSSAI, was not shy of words in pointing out that the larger companies were prone to complacency when it came to resolving consumer complaints. He advised the corporates to be active in redressing complaints especially as criticism is good and companies must see it as a learning experience.
FSSAI has also increased the focus on consumer rights to safe food and the right to have their grievances redressed. The Food Regulator has provided as many as eight platforms through which consumers can register their complaints, concerns, views and opinions. The consumers can tell the FSSAI their concerns through the following means
- On the toll-free number 1800112100
- Whatsapp or SMS their complaints on 9868686868
- Connect through the web portal-Food Safety Connect
- Contact the food regulator through their Facebook and twitter pages
- e-mail a complaint on email@example.com
- snail mail to the Regulatory Compliance Division, fourth floor, FSSAI, FDA Bhawan, Kotla road, New Delhi-110002
- walk in to the regulatory compliance division
Since the time these facilities were set up in June 2016 so between then and February 2017 the FSSAI has received as many as 1722 complaints. The maximum number of complaints (1307) pertained to food packaging. Another 415 grievances were about parcelled packages or takeaways. The complaints about food adulteration numbered 98 while 74 complaints were about sale of expired food packages.
The FSSAI team handling these complaints sifts through them, categorize them and depending on the nature of the complaint, refers them to the specific FBO or the state enforcement agency for appropriate action within the defined timelines. However, on careful scrutiny it was discovered that the majority of complaints were pending to be redressed and were lying with FBOs or the state governments!
To streamline the complaint redress system the FSSAI is planning a series of workshops with FBOs and state food safety officers. The FSSAI insisted that FBOs nominate a nodal officer for redress of consumer complaints and this in fact turned out to be the very first workshop in the series of workshops planned for such nodal officers.
To bring in further coherence in the efforts of maintaining food safety standards in the country and to reduce the response time to the exigencies emerging out of food safety issues the FSSAI will develop a Food Safety Phone Network (FSPN). All the food regulatory authorities will henceforth operate through a Closed User Group (CUG) network across the country. These CUG numbers will be integrated with Food License & Registration System (FLRS), thereby all the alerts generated by FLRS shall be messaged on these CUG numbers.
All these efforts of the FSSAI will empower the citizens in a big way to have direct access to the regulatory staff. It will also bring more transparency and shall provide an effective mechanism whereby grievance will be redressed in a timely manner and food safety will take credence.