Monday, September 3, 2012


All India Food Processors' Association (AIFPA) based in Delhi is supposed to be an anchor point for pleading cases for the food industry by acting as an interface between the government agencies and the manufacturers. As its representative character is very wide, what it says has some relevance and its views are heard by the government though the response has always been one of ignoring their feelings during the time of taking decisions. This government shows same attitude to technical organizations like Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (AFST[I]) which is the largest body in Asia, representing thousands of scientists and engineers with experience in various facets of food processing and packaging. Still these bodies have a remarkable reservoir of patience and perseverance in pursuing matters of interest to the industry. 

The newly anointed Food Laws in the country are supposed to safeguard the health of the citizens in the country without unduly harming the operational atmosphere of the processing community and a balanced approach is always preferred in all countries. Under the pretext of integrating diverse rules and regulations that controlled and monitored different sectors of food industry under various ministries which were in vogue till recently, a monolithic body was set up under the exalted banner of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), predominated by die-hard bureaucrats with no knowledge of the dynamics and technical complexities of the food industry and a set of rules and regulations were promulgated after an "exhaustive" planning of more than 6 years. Unfortunately this agency has only "Authority" to promulgate laws but no teeth to enforce the standards as the State governments only have the necessary infrastructure to operate in their areas. The result is that a "free for all" condition has been created with adulterators and fraudsters having a field day with no restraint on their nefarious activities. The judicial bodies in the country are passing stay orders in different parts of the country because of the badly drafted laws by the FSSAI.

Interestingly the "Babus" in FSSAI, used to wielding indiscriminate power, is passing orders, one after the other, many not in tune with the laws approved by the parliament which are considered injurious to the interests of the small scale food handlers and industry. Here is a typical example of its latest heavy handedness which deserves to be condemned in no uncertain terms, as pointed out by AIFPA in their letter to the government..  
-Sub-section (3) of Section-31 of FSS Act-2006 states that the prescribed fee is to be paid along with the application for grant of license. In pursuance to this, Schedule 3 under Regulation 2.1.3 of FSS (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations-2011 stipulates the fee to be charged for Registration/ License for new or renewal.

-Sub-section (4) of Section-22 of FSS Act-2006 regarding Proprietary/Novel Foods does not stipulate any fee for obtaining license for Proprietary/Novel Foods. More so, no-where in the entire Section-22 on "Genetically Modified Foods, Organic Foods, Functional Foods, Proprietary Foods, etc.", there is any stipulation for charging/ payment of any fee for such type of foods. As such, the action of charging fee of INR 25000 for 'New Product/Ingredient Approval' is not justified and may please be immediately withdrawn.

- Perusal of Section-16 of FSS Act-2006 regarding "Duties and Functions of Food Authority"does not mention anywhere a provision under Section-16 of FSS Act-2006 or elsewhere in the Act of having given any authority to the Food Authority to impose any such fee as is being demanded now for 'New Product/Ingredient Approval'.

- Clause (o) of Subsection (2) of Section-92 of FSS Act- 2006 regarding "Power of Food Authority to make regulations" stipulates charging of fee, while making application for obtaining license only. No-where under these provisions, the Food Authority has been empowered to impose such fee of INR 25,000 for 'New Product/Ingredient Approval'. 

- Regulation 2.12 of the FSS (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations-2011 regarding Proprietary Foods does not also stipulate any such fee for 'New Product/Ingredient Approval'.  Even under Section-37-A of the repealed PFA Act-1955 and Regulations made there under, there was no stipulation for charging any fee for 'New Product/Ingredient Approval' in the past.

 -Where in any of the provisions of FSS Act-2006, there is any expressed or implied provision that the Food Authority can charge any type of fee from Food Businesses / Food- Business-Operators for 'New Product / Ingredient Approval' except License/Registration Fee.

- Charging of non-refundable fee of INR 25,000 along with application for 'New Product/Ingredient Approval' and an additional amount of INR 25,000 in the case of products falling under the "Category-B" involving risk assessment and establishment of its safety violates the very provisions mentioned under Section-18 regarding "General Principles of Food Safety" of Chapter-III of FSS Act-2006.

-Charging of INR 25,000 for 'New Product / Ingredient Approval' will kill innovation in the food sector and FBOs will not be able to bring out processed food products of high quality and safety both for domestic and international markets.

-Charging of such high fee will also put financial burden on micro, small and medium enterprises, intending to introduce new products in the market. For example, a very experienced Petty-Food-Business-Operator of having developed a new recipe will not be in a position to pay one time fee of INR 25,000 plus INR 25,000 in the case of products falling under the "Category-B", due to his financial position. Therefore, an Advisory on 'New Product / Ingredient Approval' is counter-productive to the concept of fast growth and development of Food Processing Sector in the country and must be withdrawn immediately.

The above piece is quoted from a "pleading" letter to FSSAI by AIFPAI imploring the "Authority" to stop such punishing steps which can only destroy the industry. Already India is a country which does not invest much money on food research and most of the technologies operating in the country are foreign originating, heavily mechanized and automated and to which small entrepreneurs have no access. The morbid public funded R & D bodies do not count much in providing much succor to the technology hungry micro and small scale enterprises in the country as they have scientists, especially the leaders, considered "square pegs in round holes" with very little insight into the working of food industry and inappropriate background to develop what is needed by the industry.

Is it not a tragedy of Himalayan proportion that the food sector is being suffocated from both sides, government as well as the scientific agencies, not encouraging to develop new industries? What logic one can use to charge exorbitant license fees and irrational fiscal impositions on the industry, especially the domestic ones which are more and more being sidelined by giant foreign players with strong financial muscle and wide international resources? Look at the domestic research scenario and how can the public funded R & D think of patenting their processes expecting huge financial gains, making it beyond the reach of thousands of small enterprises which find the dice heavily loaded against them? Whether it is CFTRI, DFRL or NDRI the prevalent system encourages these agencies to be highly secretive and put high price tags on their laboratory based processes! Unless there is a total overhaul of domestic R & D organizations with proven industry oriented food experts heading them and governments at both State and Central levels declare a moratorium on taxing food products, India is destined to become a "free for all" anarchic country with every multinational company including the Chinese capturing the market, sending most of the present indigenous players into oblivion!



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