The FSSAI has launched a powerful new tool for food businesses, the Food Regulatory Portal. The portal is a single platform for food businesses that cater to both domestic operations and food imports. Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, who launched the Food Regulatory Portal, stated that the portal is an effort by the FSSAI towards ensuring consistency and transparency in enforcement. It would facilitate ease of doing business while the regulatory environment would garner the confidence of all stakeholders involved. The launch of the Food Regulatory Portal (FRP) is being seen as a milestone and was launched on the eve of the ‘World Food India,” India’s first mega food show, being held this week in New Delhi. FRP is expected to be an effective tool and will provide a transparent implementation of the food laws in the country.
Speaking at the launch, the Chairperson, FSSAI, Ashish Bahuguna called the Food Regulatory Portal a unique and comprehensive full-service platform for food businesses that would raise the bar of food safety in the country. Padmashree awardee, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, on the other hand, stated that food safety is paramount especially as India’s rich food diversity attracts tourists from all over the world. J.P. Meena, Secretary, Food Processing thanked FSSAI for this very timely move to build the confidence of both foreign as well as domestic investors and food businesses.
One Nation One Food Law is the vision behind this portal
The Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) was enacted in 2006, to ensure consistency and predictability of business environment in the entire nation. While the FSSA has been a single point of reference for food laws yet its implementation across all States & UTs has not always been uniform. Even at the national level, a few specific issues are under the purview of different ministries or agencies such as legal metrology, customs, plant and animal quarantine, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and AGMARK. It is hoped that the launch of the Food Regulatory Portal will create the environment for uniform implementation of the law across the nation. It is also hoped that all the agencies will work in the spirit of coordination which will create an enabling environment for businesses.
The focus will be on Six Key Issues
The Food Regulatory Portal is full service, a business-friendly portal for food businesses and will focus on six key areas like
- food standards
- consistent enforcement
- hassle free food imports
- credible food testing
- codified food safety practices
- training and capacity building
By addressing food business concerns the portal could prove to be a game changer that will ensure ease of entry and reduce the burden compliance and facilitating trade. Ease of entry will be facilitated by an online licensing and registration platform (FLRS). FLRS has also been further simplified and timelines have been prescribed for every stage of the process.
Food Standards Easily Accessible
Food product standards are always of concern to FBOs, especially for those investors who wish to bring out new products. A good thing is that India’s food standards have been benchmarked with the international Codex standards. Also, standards have been demystified on the portal and the Indian Food Standards-Quick Access (IFS.QA) system has been created. IFS.QA is a responsive IT platform where at the click of a button the user will be able to access
- thousands of product standards
- all the possible provisions of additives
- maximum residue limits for toxins and contaminants
Product-by-Product Approval Discontinued
Businesses can now develop their own products, based on proprietary recipes, subject to their using standardized ingredients and additives. Novel food products and ingredients will also be permitted but only after the associated risk is assessed in a time-bound manner. Another feature is that experts from the industry would review the standards, on an on-going basis, so as to make the standards robust enough to safeguard consumer health, yet allow the industry to introduce new products in India. These initiatives on the Food Regulatory Portal will create transparency and reduce barriers to entry.
Enforcement and Compliance Concerns
The focus remains on self-compliance and the concept ‘to trust but verify’ is encouraged. Measures have also been taken to reduce the compliance burden on food businesses. The FRP will ensure consistency in enforcement across all States and UTs. The two-pronged approach has been adopted, the first being that a single nationwide manual for Food Safety Officers (FSOs) has been developed. It documents practices and procedures to be followed by the field staff as well as an 8-point code of ethics for them, to their build capacity and change mindsets. Also, a nationwide systematic training of regulatory staff has also been initiated.
Safety Compliance through Regular Inspections and Sampling
Secondly, digital and smart technologies are being leveraged ‘to do more with less’ and bring an end to arbitrariness and ad hoc-ism in inspection and sampling. Food Safety Compliance through Regular Inspections and Sampling (FoSCoRIS,) which has also been launched, will replace manual inspections with digital inspections. FoSCoRIS uses simple mobile devices with dashboards to monitor food businesses on the real-time basis, at the district, state and national level. To maintain consistency, standard matrices have been developed for inspection of various kinds of food businesses. FoSCoRIS would be able to build the confidence of FBOs in the regulatory environment as it will be consistent across States and UTs.
Credible and Efficient Food Testing
A nationwide network of all food testing labs on a single technology platform- Indian Food Laboratory Network (InFoLNet) has also been launched. This will bring in the much-desired standardization in food testing, that is ‘one food product, one set of parameters and one parameter one test method’.
Several measures towards trade facilitation, including a single window clearance, fully integrated with Customs Authorities and risk-based inspection, have been adopted. To ensure hassle-free imports, a ‘Manual for Food Imports’ has also been developed. India HACCP and India GHP were also launched by the Quality Council of India on the occasion.
Integration of Agencies
While FSSAI is the principal regulatory body for food, six other agencies are also involved for specific purposes. There is a strong feeling that there must be a single point of reference for all food related business compliances. The FRP has, therefore, compiled related information and links to other national agencies in the food safety ecosystem like Legal Metrology, Customs, Plant and Animal Quarantine, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and AGMARK. An institutional mechanism for inter-agency coordination and cooperation and integrated grievance redress is on the anvil.
CEO, FSSAI, Pawan Agarwal has termed the Food Regulatory Portal “historic in the evolution of food safety laws in the country and bringing to life the spirit that is enshrined the Food Safety Act of 2006”. The Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 unified nine existing laws into a single Act. Eleven years on the Food Regulatory Portal is laying a solid foundation for uniform implementation of the food law throughout the country and moving towards the mission of one nation one food law.