Even as August 4, 2015, the deadline for obtaining licence or securing registration by FBOs (food business operators) under Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Business) Regulations, 2011,is round the corner, there has been just five per cent increase in the figures recorded six months ago.
While last January, former FSSAI chairman K Chandramouli had stated while speaking at Chennai that about 30 lakh FBOs had either obtained licence or secured registration till that time, six months since then, on June 29, 2015, as per a source in FSSAI, “A total of 20,850 Central and 5, 87,929 state licences have been issued. Further, a total of 25,02,867 FBOs have been registered by the states/ UTs under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.” Thus, at the end of the month of June, the total number of licensing and registration recorded int he country stood at around 31.25 lakh – an increase of just 1.25 lakh.
Later in a telephonic conversation with F&B News, the source pointed out that in case of online licensing and registration, “Till July 28, 2015, the body has done 21,344 Central licences and 2, 05,791 state licences. In case of registration – 11, 56, 449 FBOs registered.”
Actually, the pace seem to have been sluggish all along. For example, by April 6, 2015, FSSAI had granted 19,365 Central licences while the states/UTs granted 5,52,411 licences and registered 23,80,092 FBOs, according to a newsletter of FSSAI which was published in May. Further, by February 20, 2015, FSSAI had granted 18,736 Central licences while states/UTs granted 5,50,808 licences and registered 23,73,484 FBOs.
While it is visibly clear that the increase is minuscule, what is disturbing is the fact that the very purpose of an extension of six months is defeated when hardly much is achieved in terms of improvement in figures.In fact, the entire licensing and registration exercise, which has been in progress since 2011,has not been fruitful as out of some 5 crore odd FBOs in the country, hardly 32 lakh have either obtained licence or secured registration.
Nevertheless, FSSAI seems to be happy with its feat as during the CAC meeting in January, FSSAI CEO Y S Malik appreciated the states and UTs for their efforts towards enforcement of the Act. He noted the achievements on registration of FBOs and grant of licences – 30 lakh in a span of three years.
Industry wants another extension
Meanwhile, industry associations such as CAIT (Confederation of All India Traders) and Karaikudi Bakery Owners Association have started making representations and staging demonstrations in support of another extension so as to complete the review of FSSR and remove all the defects, shortcomings and ambiguities.
Praveen Khandelwal, secretary, CAIT, stated “ On behalf of the industry we would soon have a meeting with the health minister asking for an extension of at least six months to the deadline.” He added, “Last time there was a committee constituted for the amendment of the Act. But due to some reason, there has been no amendment. So we want the government to first constitute a joint committee wherein both government officers and stakeholders work together on the necessary amendment. We support strict legislation but it should be based on ground reality.” According to him, the possible reason for poor response to registration and slow progress is that people lack trust in the legislation and lack of awareness.
R Kaleeswaran, honorary secretary, Karaikudi Bakery Owners Association, in a letter to union health minister J P Nadda, has pointed out, “Review of FSSA and FSSR being undertaken by Committee of 31 MPs under chairmanship of SC Mishra; Comprehensive Review Committee of 16 Members; and Working Groups of the Food Authority,needs to be completed at the earliest so as to remove all the defects and shortcomings in the regulations.”
Hence, he adds, “Another deadline extension should be given and on removal of the defects and shortcomings, the licensing and registration of FBOs can be completed at a fast pace.”
However, authorities at the FDA and FDCA level do not seem to agree. A senior official from state of Tamil Nadu admitted, “The whole process is a dampener as every time the deadline gets extended.” In fact, most officials at the state level feel that it is because of the numerous extensions that people are not serious about completing the procedure at the earliest.
But the industry insists that the slow pace of licensing and registration is more because of “confusion” than any other reason. According to an industry insider, the primary objective of FSSAI was to convert the previous PFA licences into new ones under FSS Act. But still there is no data showing as to how many conversions have taken place in the last four years. Further, many licences under PFA have expired and they need to be renewed but there is no deadline for this renewal. It is such ambiguities that are making things complicated.