The government should keep the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act in abeyance for three years so as to give time to frame rules that would not harm the domestic industry. In its present form, the FSS Act would favour only multinational companies and strike the death knell for the indigenous industry, said S. P. Jeyapragasam, president of Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association, on Friday.
Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Jeyapragasam said that the definition for ‘adulteration' was not clear in the FSS Act. In a country like India, it would be difficult to produce ingredients for food products with uniform quality.
The Act stipulated standards that were prevalent in 1954, he claimed and said that agricultural practices had changed over the decades through infusion of technology, fertilizers and pesticides. It took six months to grow paddy in 1954 but it was now possible to harvest the crop in 90 days.
Mr. Jeyapragasam said that the enforcing authorities in the State lacked clear knowledge of the Act and familiarisation programmes were being conducted for them now.
The food standards prescribed in FSS Act conformed to European and US standards but India was a vast country that produced cereals, pulses and grains of varying quality in different climatic conditions. The nutritional value and protein, sugar and moisture content were not the same and hence would not match the parameters of the Act.
He claimed that certain preservatives had to be used in the preparation of food items and this could not be termed as adulteration.
The Act prohibited the use of sodium bicarbonate and insisted on the use of sorbic acid in ‘appalam.'
But sodium bicarbonate was allowed to be used in instant mixes. Mr. Jeyapragasam felt that a clause calling food items that did not contain ingredients with the prescribed quality, but were not harmful to health, as ‘sub-standard' could be included in the Act.
The association president also pointed out that food analysis laboratories were located only in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Thanjavur and Palayamkottai and it would be difficult for all manufacturers to get all their ingredients tested in time with the available facility.
Mr. Jeyapragasam appealed to the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, to persuade the Centre to keep the implementation of the FSS Act in abeyance for three years till the Standards Review Cell studied the suggestions and objections from manufacturers and traders.
Keywords: Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act