Through its order dated 31 May, 2016 the FSSAI has provided information regarding enforcement activities on traders in Mandis procuring agricultural produce directly from farmers. The FSSAI clarifies it is publishing this order because primary foods are included in the definition of ‘foods’ in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 Therefore all raw foods and agricultural produce are also subject to provisions of the FSS Act, Rules and Regulations.
The FSSAI has received a number of representations from Trade Associations regarding enforcement activities taken against certain traders. Most of these traders are engaged in procuring raw agricultural produce directly from farmers and selling the same for further processing. It has come to the notice of the FSSAI that these traders are being held responsible for the quality of the agricultural produce of the farmers.
The FSSAI acknowledges that it is necessary to improve farming practices and make farmers aware of the appropriate use of pesticides, fertilizers etc. so as to ensure that the agricultural produce is safe for human consumption. However, the activity of ensuring that farmers are using the appropriate pesticides and fertilizers does not come under the mandate of the FSS Act 2006. This has to be carried out by the concerned Ministries or Departments of the Union and State Governments.
FSSAI only has the authority to fix the Maximum Residual Limits (MRLs) tolerance limits for various pesticide and antibiotic residues in foods. There are other wings in the government that have to ensure that agricultural produce is in compliance with the MRLs fixed by FSSAI. The FSSAI has established these MRL tolerance limits on the basis of Good Agricultural practices (GAP) Good Animal Husbandry Practices (GAHP) Good Animal Feeding Practices (GAFP). The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare through their counterparts in the State Governments in association with other relevant departments need to ensure that all these practices are implemented and being carried out by farmers.
The FSSAI has recently proposed an amendment to the regulation dealing with ‘Foodgrains’ in the Food Safety ad Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations 2011. The new amended deals with unprocessed whole raw pulses that are not meant for direct human consumption and are therefore raw. This proposal has been operational since 13 April 2016. This will prevent avoidable harassment or persecution of traders who are procuring raw agricultural produce directly from farmers and selling the raw agricultural produce for further processing.
The analysis of such samples when taken would be tested against the standards that are available for raw produce. This is in line with the FSSAI provision that sampling of primary food should be undertaken only if the food is being sold for direct human consumption. This means that traders should not be held responsible for raw agricultural produce especially if it is to be further processed. It is the other government departments who need to assure that farmers are following best practices so pesticides and antibiotics are within limits fixed by the FSSAI.