Wednesday, April 25, 2012


From day one since the advent of the much "acclaimed" Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) with a hard core bureaucrat at the helm of affairs, it was pointed out by many with a fair knowledge of Indian food industry that nothing much was going to happen by changing PFA to FSSAI unless this body is equipped with experts in the field of food science and technology and vested with real Authority to chase the fraudsters for bringing them to books. Unfortunately people in Delhi with power to do any thing they want, have neither the time nor the inclination to listen to the views of others opposing their policies. The result is the creation of a moribund organization going in circles, in the face of a serious crisis that threatens the health of citizens with foods most of which are sold in the marker after adulteration, not knowing how to tackle the situation.

The very foundation of India's food safety program is shaky as Government of India has passed the buck for protecting food supply to its citizens to the states under the pretext of constitutional propriety. The resulting dichotomy is a ripe recipe for disaster as neither the Center nor the States do any thing substantial to establish the required infrastructure to monitor foods, commodities as well as that manufactured by the industry, and book the culprits who indulge in selling unsafe and unfit foods day in and day out. Poverty of ideas, lack of vision, low sensitivity to the sufferings of the citizen and practically no dedication are the hallmarks that exemplifies the food safety program in the country. 

Look at the situation in the country to day! For a nation with a population of 1.2 billion plus, the food requirement is huge and the country is fortunate in managing to produce adequate food grains to feed the nation, thanks to the hard work and sacrifice by its farmers. But due to mismanagement by the government, poverty and hunger are rampant and the country continues to be at the top when international hunger index ranking is considered with many African countries faring much better! The quality of food grains distributed under the PDS is scandalous and if FSSAI conducts a serious check on them real truth will come out.Take the quality of milk supplied by many vendors which are worse than poisons and the cooperative diaries do not fare better. FSSAI or the State safety authorities seem to have an unwritten understanding that milk quality of these diaries need not be checked at all with the result most of the time sub-standard quality product is supplied to the unsuspecting citizens.

While the criticism is a well intentioned one, probably it might have no impact at all since all government controlled consumer products industries are totally insensitive to any sufferings of people as they are "drunk" with power entertaining the notion that they are all "mini Gods" with license to do any thing! Take for instance the recent introduction of Masala Butter Milk by a cooperative diary in Karnataka and if one has to believe the label declaration the product as 10% fat, 13% carbohydrate and 11% proteins! Probably these diaries are manned by personnel who do not know even the fundamentals of food! The tragedy is that the Dairy still gets away with such rabid misdeeds. 

In an interesting case that reached the High Court in Delhi recently, no less an Authority than FSSAI submits an affidavit declaring that "there is a well established system to monitor presence of pesticides in fruits, vegetables and other food items in the country"! Can there be a bigger "lie" than this and fortunately the honorable judges were able to see through this "fraud" pulling up the Authority for misleading the court. The court rubbished the declaration of the FSSAI" in the light of facts" available with the court! Further the court had the wisdom to say that on many occasions non-permissible pesticides have been found in vegetables sold in Delhi and surrounding areas and dubbed the "tall claims" of the FSSAI as "surprising" after perusing their affidavit, which informed the court that there were 68 state pesticide testing laboratories, besides regional and the referral central insecticides laboratory for monitoring food products in the country. Similarly court also had to ridicule the stand of FSSAI that the presence of Endosulfan in food items, despite the pesticide being banned, is due to its presence in water used for irrigation, already contaminated years ago! These instances show that FSSAI is not all equipped to deal with country's food safety program as they have neither the manpower to fulfill their responsibility nor necessary knowledge about the ground reality in the country.

No comments: