FSSAI has created a framework of food regulations to ensure uniform application of standards and practices across the country. The prime responsibility for food safety lies with the FBOs but it is equally relevant across the entire food chain. Therefore, in order to fulfill its goal of a ‘New India’ ‘A Healthy and Happy India’ FSSAI has embarked on a journey of transformation in 2016-17 and has identified 15 key areas that can help transform the food ecosystem in the country. Even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated that the cornerstone of the efforts of FSSAI must be to ensure “safe, wholesome and hygienic food for all to create ‘Swasth Bharat.”
The transformation initiative focuses on
- Improving living standards of the poor in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner
- Revisiting the ‘goodness of the past’
- Strengthening efforts towards ‘safe and nutritious food for all’
- Food safety as a shared responsibility
The first of the15 key areas that will bring about this change is Governance and Administration
FSSAI has taken several steps to improve the workplace environment and have strengthened their internal capacity. They have formed cross-functional teams for an end to end solutions by food categories and to address concerns such as microbial resistance, substance abuse, and doping. FSSAI has also created a diverse talent pool of regular workers, deputationists, consultants, experts on part-time basis and interns.
FSSAI is responsible for framing standards for all products which are reviewed taking into account the latest developments in food science and consumption, new products and additives, advancement in processing, technology, analytical methods and identification of new risks. Development of standards is undertaken by 17 Scientific Panels and one Scientific Committee comprising of more than 220 independent experts and scientists
FSSAI has therefore
- Streamlined and speeded up the process to set up standards
- Eight standard review groups have been constituted to identify gaps in standards
- New Scientific Panel on Food Fortification and Nutrition has been constituted
- Where possible Codex standards have been adopted
- New regulations and guidelines concerning recall, traceability, products approval, food e-commerce and food fortification have been finalized
- Work on new regulations on labeling, claims, and advertisements, packaging, organic food, collection and distribution of surplus food have been initiated
- IFS Quick Access tool has been developed for easy access of all Indian food standards
- A Food Safety Knowledge Assimilation Network (FSKAN) platform has been created for the exchange of scientific knowledge and to facilitate research funding.
Registration, Licensing and Compliance
FBOs are required to be licensed or registered to carry out any food business activity. Presently there are more than 30,000 FBOs that have Central licenses, three lakh have State licenses and 28 lakh FBOs have registration. To facilitate ease in licensing and registration the FSSAI has
- Created a simplified and streamlined online licensing and registration system
- Has simplified and made a transparent system to track delays and address grievances
- Special drives initiated to bring all businesses under the purview of licensing/ registration
- Successfully tied up with Common Service Centres SPV for registration of food businesses
Building Institutional Capacity in States and UTs
Food Safety is enforced through 36 Food Safety Commissioners in the States and UTs and 3000 Food Safety Officers along with Designated Officers and Adjudicating Officers. FSSAI provides
- support to States for building institutional capacity through coordinated approach
- training and capacity building for regulatory and lab staff
- leadership training and improved interface including regular video-conferencing sessions
Currently FSSAI covers 23 ports of entry at Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and Tuticorin. In entry areas where FSSAI cannot be present the Customs Officers have been notified as Authorised Officers to maintain parity of testing and import clearance in 135 locations. Official of Kandla SEZ is notified as Authorised Officer at Kandla. In order to meet the new goals FSSAI has
- Finalised the Food Import regulations
- The procedure for food imports have been simplified through a single window interface ICEGATE portal
- Risk-based inspection has been introduced
- A system of mutual accreditation/ recognition of food labs and agencies to facilitate imports has been put in place
FSSAI notifies laboratories and research institution accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and other accreditation agencies for the purpose of carrying out analysis of samples. The FSSAI realises the importance of this area and has therefore
- Initiated to strengthen 45 State food laboratories with state-of-the-art facilities
- Mobile food labs have been established
- Referral food laboratories in all regions have been strengthened and there is at least one food laboratory for each broad category of foods
- Thirteen manuals on food analysis methods have been finalised
- Testing charges have been rationalised
- Training and capacity building of lab staff is being undertaken
- The Indian Food Laboratory IT Network (InFolNet) has been initiated which will provide IT support to food labs
- The number of FSSAI notified NABL labs have doubled between 2014 and 2017 and the total now stands at 131 labs across the country.
Safe Food Practices
The assurance of food safety also depends to a great extent on safe food practices and FBOs must implement efficient Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)
- Established FSMS on safe food practices across the value chain
- Nine technical panels have been constituted to support the work in this area
- To draft and review Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) by food category
- To develop inspection formats, guidance documents, and training modules
Food Safety Training
Training personnel is a pre-requisite for ensuring food safety and hygiene. FSSAI, therefore, intends to offer training programmes in food standards and safety to persons who wish to establish food businesses whether they are FBOs themselves or employees.
- It is required that all FBOs have at least one trained and certified food safety supervisor in all premises so as to build their capacity for self-compliance. Such supervisors would, in turn, be responsible for training food handlers
- FSSAI has initiated large-scale training through Food Safety Training and Certification (FoSTaC) system
- Resource persons and master trainers for the same are being developed
- A dedicated portal has been created to manage the training
Social and Behavioural Change
The FSSAI would like to ensure food safety and hygiene practices with a 360-degree approach that focuses on homes, schools, workplaces and while eating out.
- Each initiative will have elements like information dissemination, awareness workshops, training, and capacity building
- Initiatives are in partnership with other stakeholders like Government partners, Industry Associations, Corporates, Civil Society Organisation, Resource persons etc.
- Create Health and Wellness Coordinators and Food Safety Supervisors
Consumers have a right to information, informed choice about safe and nutritious food, right to be protected from unfair trade practices and right to redress their grievances. FSSAI is committed to empowering consumers and protecting their rights and so FSSAI has
- Put in place a dedicated ‘Food Smart Consumer’ portal so consumers have easy access to facilitate them to make informed choices, protect them from unfair practices and ensure prompt redressal of grievances
- This includes ‘Safe Water Portal’ through which consumers can get results of packaged water available in the market
- Steps have been taken to manage FSSAI Contact Centre through a professional agency
Promote Healthy Diets
FSSAI has taken steps to remove dietary micronutrient deficiencies as well as under or overnutrition of foods.
- Standards and logo for fortified foods has been notified
- Promotion of large-scale food fortification in five staples like rice, wheat, flour, milk, edible oil, and salt
- Steps were taken to reduce consumption of high fats, sugar, and salt (HFSS) and promote healthy eating habits
- Launched project ‘Diet for Life’ which will ensure availability of special diets for people especially children, suffering from inherited metabolic diseases.
Prevent and Manage Food Waste and Food Loss
Steps have been initiated to prevent and manage food waste and food loss through regulatory support and platform to connect to donors and organizations that distribute food to the needy.
Promote Hygienic Street Food and Local Food Culture
FSSAI is promoting hygienic street food and Indian traditional food ‘Indian Food Culture’ called ‘Let’s bring the Goodness Back’ to ensure safe and wholesome food.
It is important to adopt technology for more efficiency, transparency, enhanced outreach and more effective compliance and control. FSSAI is using technology to enable effective engagement with the end user and for driving performance
- FSSAI has established a full-fledged IT division and IT infrastructure has been strengthened
- New look FSSAI website has been launched with several microsites
- Big data analytics is being used for strategic decision making for licensing, compliance and imports
FSSAI has increased its global outreach by promoting international collaborations in various areas to ensure safety and quality of food both domestically and internationally
- FSSAI has taken up several programmes under the World Bank’s Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) and EU-CITD project
- An international Training Centre at Mumbai is being established in partnership with Export Inspection Council (EIC) and support of GFSP
- FSSAI in involved in an active partnership with many countries in the area of food safety and nutrition.