Nearly two years after the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) came into effect, Kerala is still struggling with lack of infrastructure and human resource constraints to implement the Act in letter and spirit.
The quality of food, from temple prasadam to food served in eateries, is a big concern in the State, said a senior food safety scientist here on Tuesday. He alleged that proper monitoring mechanism was not still in place. However, the State Food Safety Commissioner Biju Prabhakar claimed that an entirely new system was being established from the scratch and that it would take time to build the infrastructure.
The recent reports about broiler breeder chicken being sold in the meat market and banned preservatives injecting in fishes call for constant intervention to ensure quality in the food market.
One of the most obvious requirements to meet the food safety standards envisaged in the Act is setting up of more laboratories to test food samples. Now, the food safety authority is depending on institutions like the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) in Kochi and Centre for Food Research and Development, Konni to test the samples.
Mr. Prabhakar said that public analytical laboratories were needed at the district level. There are only four laboratories at present - in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Kochi and Kozhikode. Even these laboratories need better trained personnel and more modern equipments.
The Food Safety Authority is also hamstrung by shortage of people to address the issues before it. Out of a total of 92 food safety officers’ posts in the State, 16 posts are vacant. A large number of officers continue to work with the local bodies and they need to be brought under the Food Safety Authority. Interestingly, the offices are also not spacious enough to accommodate more number of people.
Mr. Prabhakar said that the toll free number provided to the public to make complaints regarding unsafe food served in hotels was largely being misused with fake calls and unspecific complaints putting food safety officials on wrong trails.