Home » FSS ACT » FSSAI to invest Rs500 crore to upgrade labs, will partner with private firms

FSSAI to invest Rs500 crore to upgrade labs, will partner with private firms

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is planning to partner with private companies to upgrade the infrastructure of its laboratories and run them
While two central laboratories in Kolkata and Ghaziabad are owned by FSSAI, state governments own 82 laboratories.
New Delhi: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is planning to partner with private companies to upgrade the infrastructure of its laboratories and run them.
Besides, the country’s food regulator has allocated `500 crore for the upgradation and modernization of state government-owned laboratories over the next 2-3 years, FSSAI chief executive Pawan Kumar Agarwal said.
While two central laboratories in Kolkata and Ghaziabad are owned by FSSAI, state governments own 82 laboratories.
“We are now trying to revive our Ghaziabad laboratory, which is almost defunct, through a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement,” said Agarwal.
Under PPP, the government will provide the private companies full “capital support” to upgrade infrastructure and the private partner will be responsible for operations and maintenance, he added.
“We will ensure that the private partner gets business so that the lab is viable… we’ll soon float an expression of interest,” Agarwal said.
Initial estimates suggest that the regulator will have to spend about `20-25 crore for each of its laboratories for upgradation of infrastructure. However, certain functions at these laboratories, such as food analysts, will continue to be handled by government-appointed people. These people will be paid by the government.
Barring critical functions, employees for the remaining tasks will be hired by private partners. The government has already relocated some of its employees from the Ghaziabad laboratory to other departments.
The sum of `500 crore, which has been allocated to state government-owned laboratories, will be invested in their upgradation and modernization. “Building laboratory infrastructure is easy. Running them professionally is not,” Agarwal said.
To make the laboratories viable, the regulator also recently revised the testing charges, which were “abysmally low”. FSSAI formally notified the revised charges on 12 April.
Although the number of government-approved testing labs are limited, Agarwal said there was no need for more laboratories. “But we need to increase the number of tests we do. That’s far from adequate in terms of enforcement, surveillance and risk assessment,” he added.
A study by economic research organisation Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals, released on 30 March, noted that the absence of FSSAI laboratories at ports is one of the major hurdles that has been affecting business by delaying entry and exit of products, besides increasing the cost of logistics.
According to Agarwal, the regulator undertakes 100% sampling of all food products that come in. “This is becoming a bottleneck. That causes delay. Therefore, we are trying to simplify that. We are trying to do inspections more on risk-based approach rather than doing 100% sampling of imported foods,” he added.
Commenting on the financial aid from the government, Agarwal said the regulator will seek funds on a need basis. “There’s no point in asking for money and waiting for it,” he said.
FSSAI had, in April 2013, asked the government for about `5,000 crore to scale up. In the 12th Five-year Plan (2012-17), the government allocated only `2,350 crore to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s