The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has closed down its regional offices in Lucknow and Chandigarh
Closing down of two regional offices out of three in North India and eight across India will deplete central authority’s presence in food regulation
Given the huge food safety challenges in the country and existing inadequacies in the enforcement mechanism, the authority should invest in and expand enforcement infrastructure and resources
FSSAI’s move gives a perception that the central regulator is backing down and is not in full control of the food safety regulatory enforcement
New Delhi, April 4, 2016: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), with effect from April 1, 2016, has closed down two of its regional offices in Lucknow and Chandigarh. FSSAI’s move is reported to be linked with several reasons such as the authority’s plans of moving towards a regime of self-regulation and declaration, avoiding nuisance to businesses, limited manpower at regional offices and challenges in enforcing food regulations across the country.
“In a country like India with 29 States and seven Union Territories, closing down two regional offices out eight gives a perception that the central regulator is backing-down. This is not good for food safety regulations in the country,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
CSE research has shown that the country is facing enormous food safety challenges, such as antibiotics in food animal production, pesticide use in agriculture; presence of hormones, metals and other toxins in food commodities and products. Indians are eating more unhealthy processed and packaged food − an industry that is growing at a phenomenal rate. Even multinational companies are selling products without registration. Importantly, quality, labelling and advertising of these products needs to be controlled.
“Given the food safety crisis in the country, it is time to invest in and expand monitoring infrastructure, resources and capacity-building. Enforcement doesn't mean inspector raj and self-regulation doesn't mean weak institution or institution without manpower,” added Bhushan.
In this context, FSSAI’s recent move is not an assuring signal that the food regulator is in control of the food safety issues the country is facing, he added.
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