On the occasion of World Food Safety Day (7 June) the FSSAI reiterated its commitment to ensure food safety for a healthy future as the theme for 2021 is ‘Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow.’ The resurgence of COVID 19 pandemic has brought back the focus on food, nutrition, health, immunity and sustainability. It is important to ensure availability of safe food in the markets as any contamination arising from food can result in additional expenditure on the healthcare system in the form of food-borne diseases. However, FSSAI cannot ensure food safety alone and feels that food safety is a shared responsibility between the Government, producers and consumers. In fact, everyone has a role to play to ensure food we consume is safe and healthy.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Hon’ble Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare highlighted that World Food Safety Day is celebrated world-wide to draw attention to the fact that food is not just an agricultural or trade commodity but is also a public health issue. Therefore, food safety must be seen as an essential public health function and action must be taken to ensure that the food, we eat is safe and nourishing. In fact, he emphasised that food safety must be integrated across all stages from farm to table and all concerned must come together to share the responsibility. He further said that food safety forms an essential component of health and nutrition policies. Significant steps should be taken to inspire action to help, prevent, detect and manage any food borne risks for contributing towards food security, human health, economic prosperity, market access and sustainable food system.
On the other hand, Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Hon’ble Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare congratulated all stakeholders associated with the food supply chain. He laid emphasis on the importance of food safety and how we can work together to fight issues related to unsafe food. He brought to notice how the pandemic has acted like an eye opener and has given an opportunity to strengthen India’s food safety system and keep food supply safe in the current situation.
As part of the World Food Safety Day celebration, the FSSAI also announced the winners of the Eat Right Creativity challenge which was organized online for school children. Through the contest children creatively presented the message of ‘Safe, Healthy and Sustainable Diets’. Out of the 26,000 entries received from across India, 640 entries were awarded Regional Winners, while 250 entries were recognised as National Winners. Among the cities. Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Chennai, Lucknow and Pune were identified as winners of the NeTProFaN challenges for conducting mass awareness activities in the last one year.
The FSSAI has been encouraging efforts to strengthen the food testing capabilities by introducing quick and advanced Food Testing Kits. FSSAI has, thus far, has approved 65 rapid food testing kits/devices. FSSAI also took this occasion to recognise an indigenous food testing equipment called Precision Iodine Value Analyzer (PIVA). This kit has been developed by CSIR along with Central Scientific Instruments Organization (CSIO). The PIVA can determine the Iodine Value (degree of unsaturation) measurement in edible oils and fats in a faster, better, and cheaper way. Currently, PIVA has been calibrated and tested for Coconut, Sunflower, Mustard, Palm, Rice Bran, Soyabean, Groundnut, Olive Oil and Ghee. Thus, PIVA is the newest addition to the FSSAI approved kits / equipment.
Among other initiatives in the year the FSSAI has provided technical and financial assistance to States/UTs for creation of necessary infrastructure, testing equipment and mobilizing resources for carrying out special camps, inspections, awareness drives, etc. by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). FSSAI has dispersed almost INR 65 crores to the States/ UTs as part of the MoU in the year 2020-21.
In the course of the year FSSAI also introduced an online training course, under its flagship program – Food Safety Training & Certification (FoSTaC), on safe food and hygiene protocols required during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 2.6 lakhs Food Safety Supervisors (FSS) have been trained so far under the COVID training course.
The year 2020 has been significant for FSSAI in terms of improvement to its online network as it gave a make-over to its existing online network. FSSAI introduced various regulatory reforms for enhancing efficiency in ‘Ease of doing Business’ by simplifying processing of applications for licensing and registration, return filing, licence validity, inspections and other compliances. These changes ensured that businesses were able to work diligently even in these trying times. Improvement in existing portals of licensing and registration through migration to the new age digital platform called Food Safety Compliance System (FOSCOS) along with better e-Governance for delivery of various e-services were some of the other noteworthy changes that were brought about in the year.
The FSSAI also made progress on the regulatory front as some important regulations were finalized. These include the Food Safety and Standards (Safe Food and Healthy Diets for School Children) Regulations, 2019. This regulation will help ensure that school children are provided wholesome food by not allowing food items that are high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) to be sold and advertised within school premises. FSSAI also regulated the limiting of industrial TFA (trans fatty acids) to not more than 3 per cent in all fats and oils by January 2021 and not more than 2 per cent by January 2022.
Another significant regulatory move was that FSSAI notified the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020, which prescribes the labelling requirements of pre-packaged foods. Besides these, the FSSAI has also proposed a set of amendments which would revamp Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Business) Regulations. In the near future the FSSAI will also release new regulations to facilitate and speed up import clearances by expanding the coverage across the point of entries for quality assurance and testing of food imports.
The year also saw FSSAI focus on various food safety efforts and the significant areas among these were periodic risk-based inspections, third party audits, surveillance drives to ensure safety and quality of food products available in the market such as sale of adulterated edible oil, khoa and honey. The FSSAI also expanded its reach by opening up new office locations at Mundra, Ahmedabad etc. the food regulator also recruited more manpower at FSSAI headquarters and across regional offices.
FSSAI’s ‘Eat Right India’ initiative is continuing to transform the food ecosystem of the country by benchmarking and providing certification schemes and cluster initiatives to improve the infrastructure and hygiene compliance levels of food establishments, these include jails, hospitals, educational institutions, places of worship, street food vendors and fruits and vegetables markets. So far, 28 Street Food Hubs and over 100 campuses are now certified through the certification scheme.
Source : FSSAI