N.J. Nair

Benchmarks to be set for the food chain

Number of courts to be fixed based on pending cases

Directive to appoint special prosecutors

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Special courts for dealing with cases related to quality and adulteration of food articles will be set up in the State soon, prior to setting new benchmarks for producing, storing, and vending food articles.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is understood to have sought details of cases registered in the State as per provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and pending in different courts.

Official sources told The Hindu that while deciding to open special courts, the authority has also ordered to appoint special prosecutors for strict enforcement of the Act and speedy trial of such cases.

A decision on the number of courts to be set up in each State will be decided on furnishing the data of the cases pending in each court.

Formed as per the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the authority aims at laying down scientific standards to regulate manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import of food articles and ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for consumption.

State acts

Though the Centre has directed all States to come up with details relating to the cases, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra were the first to set the ball rolling.

The State government has taken the lead in setting up the Food Safety Commissionerate and has appointed Health Secretary Vishwas Mehta as Commissioner, Dinesh Arora as Special Officer (Food Safety) and K. Anil Kumar as Officer on Special Duty (Food Safety).

Instead of holding vendors guilty for selling adulterated goods under the PFA Act, it has been proposed to introduce a fool-proof mechanism for issuing licence for food production as well as creating awareness among the public about the quality of the food articles marketed through various outlets.

District Food Inspectors will become designated officers and Food Inspectors, food safety officers. A thorough upgradation of the analytical laboratories too is in the offing.

The authority is also planning to educate various sections, mainly housewives, about the quality and standard of food products so that they are able to easily detect adulterated and sub-standard goods.

It has been proposed to rope in non-governmental organisations and other agencies to conduct awareness and training programmes all over the State.

The State government has been told to furnish details about its requirement of funds for implementing the Act, the sources said.