Finally, India will have a fast and smooth food recall process, in accordance with global best practices. In this regard, Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is working on a new draft food recall policy with technologically advanced features such as use of barcoding system and identification of actual lot to be recalled amongst large quantity through traceability mechanism.
While food recalls have been rare in India save examples such as Parle Mango Bite, last year’s Maggi noodles controversy that saw India’s biggest food recall, changed the scenario. Following the Maggi row, efforts were made to introduce a comprehensive recall policy in the country. The text of this recall policy was put forth last year for consideration, however, it did not get approval of the authority on account of certain issues, revealed a senior official from FSSAI.
He explained, “The draft was not approved because there was some disagreement on the framework. Therefore the authority had decided to redraft the policy.” The policy would be finalised soon and made operational by next financial year wherein the FSSAI has decided to make a final notification of recall regulations.
Besides, there would be a food recall portal by FSSAI that would contain all the necessary procedural advice for FBOs, and the dos and don’ts with respect to food recall. Further, the apex food regulator wants to prepare guidelines for a traceability mechanism to support the system of food recall.
When asked about the food recall policy, Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, stated that it was being considered for some time and FSSAI was in the process of drafting the new policy that would be in place soon.
“It was vital for the whole food safety mechanism and we would be drafting the new set of guidelines with respect to food recall that would be put out for consideration soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, FSSAI officials informed that this recall policy would guide the FBOs on how to carry out the recall by using the barcoding system and identifying the actual lot to be recalled amongst large quantity of the said product declared unsafe. This would also help the consumers to remain alert from buying such product.
It is pertinent to mention here that last year the FSSAI asked Nestle to withdraw its Maggi noodles of all variants from market on account of some lab finding of high Lead and MSG content. The whole lot of Maggi noodles worth millions of dollars was destroyed. Not only noodles but many energy drinks were asked to initiate a recall citing non-adherence to food safety norms.
In the previous draft for recall management, there were defined subjects that include mention of “public warning,” “recall,” and the onus of the recall. It also talked about the recall plan and destruction of food along with the role of the state food safety mechanism.
The objective was to guide the food business operators on how to carry out a food recall process using global identification systems such as barcode and other mechanisms like email, paper, and fax, which facilitated fast removal of the food under recall from the distribution chain and informing consumers (where necessary) of the presence of such food in the market and ensure that it was contained and destroyed or rendered safe. It was further to guide food business operators on how to establish a written ‘Recall Plan’ for executing the food recall process in case the food is determined unsafe and to protect the health of consumers in such a situation and lay down the complete process of recall, post-recall report, closure of the recall process and follow-up action in order to ensure the effectiveness of the recall and prevent a recurrence, according to the draft.