Union health secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma has said that the process of reviewing the Food Safety & Standards Regulations, 2011, is currently underway and it is likely to complete by next year. He disclosed this information while addressing the 10th National Food Safety and Quality Summit, a food safety, quality and competitiveness event for food and beverage industry, held here recently.
Sharma, however, did not explain the specific amendments proposed in the FSS Regulations but assured the food industry that there would be a paradigm shift in FSSAI’s approach after one year and there would be a streamlined Product Approval system in place based on scientifically approved Codex harmonised standards.
“There is a difference of opinion in interpretation of laws and regulations amongst the various ministries particularly with respect to the Product Approval. The process of reviewing the Act is on and we’ll be able to put more clarified set of rules and regulations by next year like done in case of nutraceuticals recently by FSSAI,” Sharma noted at the event organised by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
He added that FSSAI could broaden the food safety concept and scientific approach towards its implementation through ideas such as self regulation but its implementation had been far from smooth. There were few provisions which require amendments and greater clarity, as interpretation has been different.
It is pertinent to mention here that after the comprehensive review, the government got recommendations for review of FSSR 2011, which is presently under consideration.
He further pointed out that the government was laying emphasis on standard setting, which could have been done by this time. But given the sheer number of standards that were needed to be harmonised, both horizontal and vertical, it was taking time.
“The standards were one aspect perhaps could not get enough time or attention of FSSAI because of their involvement with the Product Approval business. The time in last four years could have been better utilised for having standards in place and 90% of the product wouldn’t have required the approval.”
“Greater emphasis on standards is needed but it is easier said than done and it is taking time. A whole process of consultation and scientific assessment is required which is time consuming. Further the number of scientific panels is also limited thereby restricting the output. In the last one year there has been quick progress like setting up of standards for nutraceuticals on which draft is done, some comments have come, FSSAI is examining and the standards would be notified sooner,” he stated.
He informed that 12,000 additive standards were draft notified and further some 9-10,000 horizontal standards would be released soon. The FSSAI is also working towards vertical standards. Codex standards and safety studies during the Product Approval procedure have produced huge data which would help in setting up the standards. And, there are number of standards which are at final stages.
“And I am sure that within a year’s time after setting up of standards, most of Product Approval procedure would get streamlined. The Product Approval can’t be done away with completely because there will be products and ingredients which may not have standards. Some kind of system needed to be devised where approval can be given,” he said.
With regard to the Rs 1,950 crore revamp plan by the health ministry for FSSAI and state food authorities infrastructure, Sharma said that the ministry was actively looking into the matter and pushing hard to make it possible soon.
Present on the occasion were J P Meena, joint secretary, MoFPI; V Prakash, eminent scientist, CSIR; and Piruz Khambatta, chairman, Rasna.