|Friday, 11 December, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]|
|Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi|
A division bench of the High Court raised the query in a PIL filed by an NGO Lok Jagriti in which it brought to the court’s notice that while lakhs of samples were sent to 68 private labs across the country, the four government-run labs got only a few thousand each. It was also submitted to the court that guidelines in this regard, issued by FSSAI, were not in line with the FSS Act.
“The court also observed that the guidelines issued by FSSAI don’t hold ground and therefore guidelines issued by FSSAI with regards to chemicals (like red aloevera) permitted in imported food stand quashed,” said S K Mishra, petitioner from the NGO, and added that the court said that consequently the advisory (permitting import of food having chemicals permitted under Codex) issued on January 24, 2013, would also have no effect in law.
Meanwhile, with regard to labs, the court asked FSSAI, “Why this disparity? Why not send more to government labs? Do the government labs not have the capacity? Why are you not then upscaling the capacity?.”
The NGO represented by advocate Govind Jee, claimed that the government-run labs were not well-equipped and even the staff there did not have proper training.
He sought setting up of independent scientific panels, as stipulated under the FSS Act, for coming up with standards for food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with eatables, among others.
The authority responded that such panels were already in place. It, however, said it had no labs of its own and was dependent on four Food Research and Standardisation Laboratories (FRSL) which were set up under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act.
It added that all the labs it used for testing were accredited with the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
The court, thereafter, directed that anything that is prohibited under FSS Act and Regulations framed under it, but which is permitted under the Codex Alimentarius, which is a collection of internationally recognised standards relating to foods, food production and food safety or any other global standard, would be prohibited as per Indian law.
On the disparity in number of samples sent for testing to private and government labs, the court noted that the concern raised was with regard to authenticity and reliability of the reports of private labs.
The apex regulatory body assured the court that all requirements under the Act shall be complied with fully and if any of the private labs made a mistake they would lose their NABL accreditation.
The court noted in its order that as per a recent order of the Bombay High Court, and which was upheld by the Supreme Court, FSSAI did not have the power to issue guidelines or advisory with regard to approval of food products.
The NGO had in its plea raised various issues ranging from government labs not getting enough samples, lack of authencity of reports of private labs, and powers of FSSAI to issue guidelines/advisories.