FSSAI is almost obsessed with bringing in a “Food Product Approval System” that does not exist in any country in the world and is clearly more restrictive of trade than is required to achieve appropriate level of health protection, according to Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA). Members of the association expressed this opinion at a press conference held here on Thursday.
Addressing the media, R K Sanghavi, chairman, nutraceuticals sub-committee, IDMA, and many members of the body, said, “Introduction of Product Approval system will deprive the consumer of general product which is available in all other countries. There are countries who are healthy and safe with various products being introduced with no such system of Product Approval.”
“With the Supreme Court verdict, FSSAI is not supposed to ask for Product Approval from Patanjali or Nestle when they have all documents of ingredients, registration, licences in place,”claimed the members.
The IDMA members reiterated that a “product” contains several ingredients and the draft regulations have already notified many meaning that all products having these or the listed additives were naturally safe.
They wanted to know why FSSAI wanted to come up with a Product Approval system in spite of the Supreme Court upholding the quashing of advisory in a verdict dated August 19, 2015.
One of the IDMA members, thundered, “FSSAI has adamantly declared on its website that although it is no more able to operate the Food Product Approval System due to the August 19, 2015, judgement of the Supreme Court, they shall soon use the legal route to reintroduce the system of pre-approving final product via regulations.”
Further, in response to a letter sent to FSSAI by IDMA on September 29, 2015, to find out if any public grievance case was received by the authority under Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS), the apex regulatory body replied in October that it did not receive any such grievances till date, however, it was making all efforts to expeditiously frame regulations on Product Approval. The body clarified that till the regulations are notified, the provisions of the Act and the regulations thereunder shall remain in operation.
The members presented an RTI (Right to Information Act) response copy filed by Sanjay Kumar Jain, advocate, Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh, posing queries such as how much total funds were collected, how many product approval applications were received and how the funds were utilised. Interestingly, all the questions were answered vaguely and without any clarity by officials concerned at FSSAI.
“The loser, if the Product Approval system is reintroduced, would be the food industry resulting in loss of productivity for India, the consumer since availability of products already being consumed could stall; the Indian public since employment opportunities will fold up and even retrenching of labour could be the outcome; loss of export opportunities; and even loss to the drive for “Make in India” movement because there is no reason why foreign industry should come to India to suffer unnecessary, unheard of restrictions,” stated Dr Jaydeep A Thaker, member, nutraceuticals committee, IDMA.
Meanwhile, Sandeep Gupta, vice-chairman, nutraceuticals subcommittee, IDMA, said, “Asking for Product Approval is overruling the court orders. Product Approval for them is all based on paper, wherein list of ingredients that goes in manufacturing of product is mentioned and submitted to get approved. There is no scientific/lab study done on the product. With proper testing just a paper can’t decide the safety of human life.”
Gupta pointed out that the Special Task Force formed by FSSAI and headed by Dr V Prakash to review the process of Product Approval, had recommended that proprietary food products using approved ingredients and additives should not require Product Approval.
He stated, “What is needed is surveillance in the market place by FSSAI on products available and suitable action, as already provided for by FSSA, if any of them do not comply with the prevailing regulations. With a similar mechanism, consumer safety is being assuredly guarded by food authorities globally.”
According to him, IDMA has submitted a list of over 4,000 ingredients and additives which are already being consumed globally and need to be listed by the upcoming regulations being framed for Section 22. Once the FSSAI has pre-approved ingredients in place then any product utilising these is automatically deemed safe under the regulations of the FSS Act.
“Its high time, we need regulations in place now. We have submitted draft regulations to FSSAI and if they need any clarification, IDMA is open for discussion,” concluded Gupta.