The FSS Act, 2011 seeks to integrate several food laws

To tighten control over the food and beverages industry, mobile laboratories equipped for surveillance and inspection will soon be deployed, B.S. Ramaprasad, Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Services, has said.

Among the biggest challenges in implementing the new Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2011 are the lack of food safety inspectors and the poor status of public laboratories, said Mr. Ramaprasad at a seminar on the FSS Act organised by the Bangalore Chamber of Commerce here on Thursday.

The FSS Act, which will replace the over-50 year-old Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954, seeks to integrate several food laws that govern vegetables, meat, milk and edible oil.

No NABL accreditation

“The State has 104 food safety inspectors when the requirement is 234. And while we have five public labs, they are not accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). We need these labs upgraded,” he said. The State will soon get a new NABL-accredited lab, set up in association with the Karnataka Health System Development and Reform Project, and with funding from the World Bank.

‘Some resistance'

Mr. Ramaprasad added that he had encountered resistance from a section of hoteliers in the State for registering under the new Act as they feared penalties and imprisonment that the new Act prescribes for certain violations.

New contaminants

In her lecture on current trends in food analysis, Lalitha R. Gowda, head of the Food Safety and Analytical Quality Control Laboratory, Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore, said that new contaminants now laced our food. Antibiotics and veterinary drug residues were the new additions to the list of additives, pesticides and microbiological contamination.

Food products targeted for adulteration are generally of high commercial value, she said.

This included the addition of corn or cane sugar in honey, artificial vanillin to natural vanilla extract or dilution of wine with water.

Identifying adulteration

However, there are a host of new techniques to identify adulteration, Dr. Gowda said. For instance, high performance liquid chromatography can chemically profile fruit juice to detect adulteration, and isotope ratio mass spectrometry can find out if a fruit has been artificially ripened.

The industry must ensure consumers are empowered with complete information about the products they buy, whether about composition or nutrition, said Bejon Misra, former member of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.