The Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has mandated that state governments can notify excise department officer to act as food safety officer (FSO) so as to ensure quality of alcoholic drinks. This has been done after a series of discussions and deliberations that took place between food safety officials of states and FSSAI in recent times.
“The objective was to reduce the overlapping of duties in the two departments,” explained Pawan Kumar Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, adding, “The state food safety commissioners have to take a decision for the same. A letter in this regard has been written earlier in April. The aim was to bring the two departments closer to avoid overlapping of work.” However, he clarified, “But there is an embargo as it depends on the qualification of the excise inspector which should be at par with that of FSO.”
Currently, for quality purpose, the FSO under the state food safety commissioner, has the responsibility to collect samples of the liquor for the purpose of testing whereas the excise inspector has a responsibility to check the shops selling alcohol for revenue purpose. But many a times, this was seen as interference in the excise department functioning when FSO comes in to collect samples.
Agarwal comments, “The decision will give freedom to state government to notify the excise department official to work as FSO for the purpose of sample collection for quality purpose.”
Meanwhile, reactions on the move seem to be positive with fewer concerns. A N Panchal, FSO, food department, Rajkot Municipal Corporation, said, “FSSAI has offered powers of a food safety officer as to avoid delay in the functioning. This is regards to speeding up the process. Food safety officer can also collect samples to ensure safety and can submit it to the lab for testing, if required.”
Particularly for the purpose of import, this would be a great help he feels. “Earlier it consumed time as excise officer handed it to the concerned food safety officer to take the process ahead. But now due to the eased procedure, time consumed in the import process will be saved,” he added. MPFDA officials also welcomed the move.
Meanwhile, UPFDA officials stated that when the food safety regime moved from PFA to FSS Act, it was meant that department of food safety as a uniform body should carry out such an exercise with respect to food and beverages while earlier, there used to be different offices from municipality to state level that were involved.