FSSAI and the industry collaboration to build and strengthen science-based food safety capabilities in India are making good progress. The need for food safety assessment in Novel foods and additives has increased since there has been a spurt in global food chains. This has given rise to a growing list of novel ingredients and food additives which need safety assessment.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Hindustan Unilever (HUL) had collaboratively set up CHIFSS (CII-HUL Initiative on Food Safety Sciences) and had subsequently signed a MoU with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2016 in order to promote science-based food safety. One of the ways CHIFSS is to organize Public Lectures.
At the just concluded 5th FSSAI-CHIFSS Public Lecture series, Dr. Paul Hepburn, Programme Director Food & Refreshment, Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC), Unilever, UK delivered a talk on “Food safety Assessment – Novel Ingredients and Additives”Dr Hepburn outlined the critical importance of how novel ingredients and additives need to be within the parameters of food safety, quality, and food security.
He also explained the scientific safety evaluation principles that enable inclusion of these at safe levels. His interesting concept of ‘exposure’ – milligrams of the ingredient or additive per kg body weight of consumption by a human being, helped the audience appreciate the basics of risk assessment. He showcased risk assessment tools and shared compelling safety evaluation case studies.g. plant sterols for cholesterol control.
On the other hand Mr. Pawan Agarwal, CEO, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India laid emphasis on how Innovations in the food industry, along with increasing consumer interest in food safety, and the introduction of novel foods that are added to human foods, are making it imperative for the Authority to have safety evaluation of all the new ingredients through a rigorous scientific and risk assessment based framework.
The audiences were made aware that the FSSAI has made the Food Safety and Standards (Approval of Non-SpecifiedFood and Food Ingredients) Regulations, 2017 to regulate the approval process and safety evaluation of novel food ingredients. In this way, FSSAI ensures that the foods consumed and sold within the country are safe. He also commended the partnership between FSSAI and CHIFSS that is rapidly building new scientific capability in food safety, through various mechanisms, including Public Lectures. This is helping to establish a robust and effective food regulatory system in India.
Ms. Geetu Verma, Executive Director – Foods, Hindustan Unilever Limited took the audience through the journey of CHIFSS over the last two years. She highlighted the areas where CHIFSS has been active and how CHIFSS was helping to firmly establish a scientific and robust food safety environment in the country. Ms. Verma also emphasised the need for expanding such collaborative efforts to enhance food safety in India, in the larger interest of consumer health and safety. She was highly appreciative of CII and FSSAI on the strong partnership and commitment to the vision of science-led food safety and making CHIFSS a sustainable platform.
The Public Lecture was attended by various stakeholders including eminent scientists, government officials and professionals from academia and Industry along with students from related fields. Dr. B. Sesikeran, Member, FSSAI panel on Functional Foods, Nutraceuticals, Dietetic Products, other similar products & Former Director, National Institute of Nutrition chaired the session on the “Key Considerations on Food Safety Assessment – Novel Ingredients and Additives”. He discussed some of the priority areas that need focus e.g. development of risk assessment approaches and improvement of understanding of concepts like No Observed Effect Level & Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level, Acceptable Daily Intake Level & Safety factors.
The Audience engaged well with the speakers and participated in the discussions. This Public Lecture has set a tone for open and transparent dialogue on ingredients and additives and surely this will pave the way for consumers and stakeholders alike to enhance trust in the food safety system in the country.