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HC questions disparity in sending samples to labs by FSSAI

The Delhi High Court today questioned the food safety and standards authority (FSSAI) why there was a disparity in the number of samples sent for testing to government labs vis-a-vis private labs.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva raised the query after it was told by an NGO that while lakhs of samples are sent to 68 private labs across the country, the four government-run labs only get a few thousand each.
“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 court asked FSSAI.
NGO Lok Jagriti, represented by advocate Govind Jee, also claimed that the government-run labs were not well-equipped and even the staff there did not have the proper training.
He also sought that independent scientific panels be set up, as stipulated under the FSSA 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 are already in place. It, however, said it has no labs of its own and was dependant upon four Food Research and Standardisation Laboratories (FRSL) which were set up under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.
It also said 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 the FSSA Act and rules and regulations framed under it, but which is permitted under the Codex Alimentarius – 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.

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