Manufacturers and traders of food items have appealed to the State Government to urge the Centre to defer the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2011 (FSSA) for the next three years.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, the president of Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association, S. P. Jeyapragasam, claimed that the FSSA would allow multinationals to open shop here, thereby affecting the small food manufacturers and traders. Foreign direct investment in retail trade had been put on hold following stiff opposition.

Likewise, implementation of FSSA should be suspended till such time safeguards were incorporated for farmers and traders, he said.

Mr. Jeyapragasam said that natural variations in quality of agricultural produce caused by climatic changes all over the country would result in food products made from them as sub-standard as per FSSA.

The standards prescribed in FSSA were similar to those in Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954. But Indian agriculture had come a long way since 1954 and farmers had started to use new varieties of seeds under varying climatic conditions. Legislations like the FSSA, he felt, were suitable for countries that were solely dependent on imports for their food requirements.

He wanted the government to remove difficulties in getting licence and exempt small traders with a turnover of less than Rs 12 lakh per annum from the purview of the Act.

He also felt that it was not fair on the part of the government to invite suggestions and objections to the FSSA after its implementation. The government should establish quality control food analysis laboratories in all districts and fix reasonable charges for testing.

The law, he said, should allow declaration of ‘approximate' nutritional value for a product instead of ‘exact' value as contents of agricultural produce varies from place to place depending on climatic conditions, nature of soil, pesticide and fertilizer use.

To reinforce his point, Mr. Jeyapragasam claimed that laboratory tests had proved that sugar samples from different factories and jaggery failed the quality test.

Representatives of different farmers and traders' organisations will conduct a dharna in all district headquarters on February 2 to press their demands. A meeting of associations of trade and industry will be held in Tiruchi on February 18 to decide on the future course of action.

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