Food Safety Standards Authority asks States to set up an implementation mechanism to ensure distribution of safe and wholesome food

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has asked the States to put in place an adequate and effective structure to administer the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which came into effect from August 5 last year.

The Act essentially involves putting in place an effective enforcement machinery to ensure safety in foods that are consumed. It was drafted as a consolidated Act bringing under its jurisdiction various individual Acts including the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.

In a letter to the States, K. Chandramouli, chairperson of the Authority has asked them to direct all concerned to initiate, set up and strengthen the implementing agencies so that “we could improve and put in place an adequate and effective structure to administer the Act.”

“You would agree that this is a very stupendous task and would need a very well coordinated effort involving local bodies like the municipalities, town areas and panchayats. A very strong information, education and communication (IEC) effort with local training and capacity building for government staff would also need to be put in place,” Mr Chandramouli said while adding that FSSAI would be supporting the States in terms of providing on-line software and material, training modules, training of trainers and resource persons. We have also sought budgetary support to strengthen the regulatory system in the 12th Plan, he said.

Under the Act, it is essential that enforcement structure includes the posting of the designated officers at the district level and at Food Safety Offices in the sub-district level who would enforce the Act. At the State level, the Food Safety Commissioner is the head of this machinery. Some States have already appointed a Food Safety Commissioner and also have in place the structure for the enforcement of the Act. The new Act is more holistic and science based and is less regulatory with graded penalties.

The Act has also defined a Central Advisory Committee with representation of all States to meet regularly to monitor, review and assess the implementation of this law. In the last meeting held in January, some of the issues which were common and relevant to all States were taken up and discussed, including training of manpower at the district and sub-district level in the areas of sampling, licensing and registration.

“There is a need to supplement the manpower and strengthening of the system. The licenses are to be issued to all Food Business Operators (FBO) through conversion of their earlier licenses issued under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and in cases where FBOs have come into being, issuance of new licenses. Similarly, a large number of small time FBOs would need to be registered,'' Mr Chandramouli has said in his letter.

The Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 is at par with international standards, ensuring improved quality of food for consumers and censure of misleading claims and advertisements by those in the food business.

FSSAI, established under the overarching legislation, lays down science based standards for food items and regulates their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

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