Adverse impact of the act on farmers highlighted by them in a petition

Twenty-one Members of the Parliament from Tamil Nadu have signed a petition urging the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad to address “shortcomings” in the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSA) 2006.

The Act established the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSA) as a statutory body coming under the Health Ministry for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and regulating manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale and import of food.

The petition was the result of a campaign undertaken by Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association, which met all the 40 MPs from the State at New Delhi recently and highlighted the adverse impact the Act could have on farmers and small food business operators.

Addressing a press conference in Madurai on Tuesday, association president S.P. Jeyapragasam said that rules and regulations of the FSA were heavily influenced by multinational companies and domestic corporates who dominated the 123-member committee formed to frame the standards under the Act. He also noted that this committee was dissolved by the Supreme Court on February 2011.

Even M.S. Swaminathan, the Rajya Sabha MP known widely as the ‘Father of the Green Revolution,’ whom the delegation met in New Delhi, concurred with the traders’ opinion and voiced his concern with the Union Health Minister.

The Act, which replaced the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, levied penalties in the range of Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh besides prescribing jail terms ranging between six months to 10 years.

Further, it had retained the standards set in 1954 for most of agricultural food produce though farming practices and the environment had undergone a sea change since then.

“While we welcome the intentions of the Act to provide quality and hygienic food to the public and coming down heavily on adulterated food, its rules and regulations are impractical.

The Act was framed in 2006 but notified in 2011 and yet, the Government did not utilise the five intervening years to crate awareness among the business community.”

He also noted that Tamil Nadu was being considered as being in the forefront of implementing the Act by officials in New Delhi even as several States were yet to establish the offices for implementing agencies.

Further, Mr. Jeyapragasam said, the standards of food produce would surely vary from region to region and sometimes within the region itself depending upon rains or lack of it, fixing one quality for all was not a practical move.

The association also urged the Central Government to rectify the various “anomalies” in the Food Safety Act 2006.

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