Pawan Kumar Agarwal, CEO, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), has said that food business operators (FBOs) and regulators should not be seen as adversaries to each other instead they should be looked at as there to help each other in achieving the goal of food safety. Further, food businesses should adopt international best practices to stand the global trade competition, according to Agarwal.
“There is absolutely no reason for the regulator and food businesses to be seen in adversarial position. They are all citizens and consumers. As responsible citizen we’ll have to ensure food safety in all aspects of food business,” he said, while taking part in an event here recently.
The FSSAI CEO added that a framework is needed to be crafted so that the FBOs are guided well with regard to compliance. “Our job is to improve the quality of the food that is being manufactured in the country. We have to create a framework for continuous improvement and for that FBOs are first to be guided for compliance for all aspects/critical points for manufacturing of the food.”
With regard to bridging the communication gap that seems to have cropped up between FBOs and regulators, Agarwal said, this is already being done. He informed, “We have an absolute open door policy for FBOs of all kinds, for consumers, for civil organisation and we’ll be close to all stakeholders.”
This is evident with recent developments wherein FSSAI issued clarification with respect to proprietary food and released standards for additives. And now the FSSAI is moving towards surveillance through risk assessment instead of sample-based enforcement.
Agarwal stated, “The whole new paradigm instead of enforcement through samples, we have to go to surveillance through risk assessment and risk management. It is still not there in our regulatory environment so we have a long way to go.”
He pointed out that the food business was getting global with increase in exports and imports and the industry tended to lose out if our food safety regulatory environment was not in accordance with global standards. There is no choice but to adopt international best practices of food safety and the regulator should get all cooperation from FBOs.
As for creation of science-based standards, the FSSAI CEO said that the process was time-consuming and complicated although it had been accelerated in the past few months and 80-90 of the standards and regulations should be in place within the next few months.
“There is no way a regulator will be able to ensure food safety with small machinery. Therefore the onus of the food safety lies on food businesses and that is the paradigm shift. HACCP and other such principles should be maintained by the food business,” he said.