A two-day ‘National Conclave on Food Safety and Nutrition’ was organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on 8th and 9th January 2018 at New- Delhi. State Health Secretaries and Food Safety Commissioners reviewed the current status of food safety and nutrition in the country and deliberated on the way forward.
Senior officials from Ministry of HRD, Health and Family Welfare and Women and Child Development, industry associations, World Bank, WHO and World Food Programme, Development Partners such as Tata Trusts, GAIN and PATH participated. The first day of the event was presided over by Smt. Preeti Sudan, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Government of India while on the second day it was the Union Health Minister, Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda who presided over the roundtable with State Health Ministers.
During the roundtable, a team of researchers from Denmark, who have carried out a rapid assessment of economic costs of foodborne diseases in India, shared their findings. According to them, foodborne diseases impose a huge economic burden on India. As per their estimates, this would amount to as much as 0.5 percent of India’s GDP or about 28 billion USD.
Five key decisions have been taken in the State Health Ministers Roundtable.
In the first instant, it has been recognized that safe, hygienic and healthy diet is the key to preventive healthcare. This will also become the first pillar of National Health Policy, 2017 and State Health Ministers have agreed to improve convergence between National Health Mission (NHM) and Safe and Nutritious Food (SNF) campaigns initiated by FSSAI. This would include using funds from NHM for strengthening of food safety systems in the States, integration of emergency response system under NHM for emergency response to food poisoning and food-borne illnesses and use of resource books, like
- ‘Pink Book’ for SNF@Home
- ‘Yellow Book’ for SNF@School
- ‘Orange Book’ for SNF@Workplace
They have also decided to launch sustained campaigns in cities, districts and States under the banner of Safe and Nutritious Food (SNF) to develop the city, district and state-wide ecosystems and declare them Smart Food State / District / City.
Secondly, they have recognized that eating habits are formed early in life and are difficult to change later. In this regard the State Health Ministers agreed to use appropriate curriculum and content on food and nutrition in schools to promote healthy eating habits and build awareness amongst citizens particularly young citizens and encourage them to use simple methods to test food adulteration and food spoilage through mobile food testing labs (‘Food Safety on Wheels’) and food labs in schools and colleges.
The third outcome is that the State Health Ministers have decided to launch a campaign with a special focus on young citizens and school children for
- limiting energy intake from fat to less than 30% of the total daily calorie intake
- eliminating trans-fats completely (i.e. bring down consumption of trans-fat to less than 1% of total calorie intake
- reducing salt consumption to less than 5gm per day
- limiting intake of free (added) sugar to less than 10% of daily total calorie intake by 2022 (India@75)
Fourthly the State Health Ministers have decided to promote and encourage supplies, distribution and retailing of fortified staples in the public distribution system as well as the open market. They will work towards fortification of all refined and packaged edible oil and all packaged milk with vitamin A and D to pave the way to make it mandatory in the near future.
Last of the key points is that the State Health Ministers have decided to promote organic food and dietary diversification by various measures to integrate local and regional cuisines. Efforts will be made to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables to at least 450-500gm/day and moderate the intake of refined carbohydrates.
Other important aspects discussed were about creating a culture of self-compliance among FBOs. This could be managed by
- building internal capacities
- focus on third-party audits
- making enforcement transparent, standardized, predictable and fair by adopting a digital compliance platform
- encouraging rating and fair competition amongst food businesses
- States agreed to strengthen the food safety machinery and the state food lab system in their respective States
During the Roundtable, the State Health Ministers adopted a joint resolution with a seven-point charter
- supporting the development of robust food standards and code of practices for safe food
- creating a positive regulatory environment
- establishing a credible and robust national food testing system
- addressing micronutrient deficiencies and promoting healthy dietary habits
- bringing about large-scale social and behavioral change in citizens on safe and nutritious food
- building a culture of self-compliance in food businesses
- developing effective institutions and institutional arrangements backed with competent human resources and adequate financial resources
The Union Health Minister also released a framework for
- ‘Clean Street Food Hubs’ and ‘Safe and Hygienic Food Festivals’. These two initiatives would help build capacities of street food vendors and will go a long way to inspire citizens’ trust in unorganized street food vending.
- FSSAI’s ‘Healthy India Food Calendar’. First, of its kind, this calendar covers India’s main festivals, the food associated with them and their nutritional benefits. This calendar captures the wisdom behind traditional Indian dishes and popularizes them and integrates 12 of FSSAI’s key initiatives by weaving a strong narrative around safe and nutritious food for all, touching the lives of all our citizens, wherever they are.
- FSSAI’s website with a new look and a focus on its key stakeholders was also launched today.
Health Minister said that the focus should shift from disease-centric treatment to preventive and promotive health care. He highlighted the various initiatives taken by the Central Government in this regard. He urged the State Governments to make use of the other resources developed by FSSAI and popularize Mascots – Master & Miss Sehat.