|Thursday, 14 July, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]|
|Ashwani Maindola and Pushkar Oak|
|FDAs and FDCAs in the country have initiated action against food business operators (FBOs) manufacturing packaged drinking water operating without or not possessing the mandatory FSSAI and BIS licences.
In this regard, FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) had recently directed state enforcement authorities to conduct inspections of FBOs involved in packaged drinking water business sans licences. FSSAI had forwarded data of the units, which were found not complying with the relevant guidelines.
Sources in FSSAI revealed that several FBOs who manufacture for companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola apart from few other players were on the list, which was forwarded to state enforcing authorities. Though a recent press release by FSSAI has clarified that manufacturers of Aquafina, Kinley, and Bisleri are holding both FSSAI and BIS licences and all necessary approvals, the remaining units are still under cloud.
A senior official from Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maharashtra, informed, “The direction for the enforcement in this regard was given recently in the month of April. Now, the new development in this regard is that the FSSAI has passed on the information which they had and with BIS authority to the state governments. This data can be of great help to track down the units operating without appropriate approvals.”
He added, “We had also launched a campaign recently for the bottled water suppliers as several states have reported that algal growth is seen in the bottles being supplied for drinking purpose.”
Giving further details, an official from FSSAI said that the apex food regulator had passed on all information which it had with regard to the packaged drinking water manufacturing units operating without appropriate licences.
According to estimates, around 5,000 units have been operating in spite of the certification or registrations being incomplete. And around 1,495 units have both BIS and FSSAI licences, while 4,347 units have only BIS certification.
Meanwhile, Pawan Kumar Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, when asked about the enforcement with regard to the packaged drinking water industry stated that the authorities found serious gaps in operations of such FBOs and they lacked adherence when it came to guidelines for operations.
He explained, “When we were reconciling with the licences given to the packaged companies of BIS and FSSAI we found large gap. Both the licences from FSSAI and BIS are mandatory. And no FBO can run away from doing so.”
When asked whether there would be any timeline for the companies to comply with the regulations, the CEO said that the companies should do it immediately without any timeline.
Clarification Issued by FSSAI
(a) Packaged drinking water is covered under definition of food under Section 3(j) of Food Safety Act, 2006, as “Food” and as contained in Section 31 of FSS Act all Food Business Operators require licence/ registration prior to carrying/ commencing of food business including packaged drinking water.
(b) FSSAI has made BIS certification mandatory under sub-regulation 2.3.14(17) of FSS (prohibition and restriction on sales) Regulation, 2011, i.e. “No person shall manufacture, sell or exhibit for sale packaged drinking water except under the Bureau of Indian Standards Certification mark.”
(c) BIS certification for packaged drinking water (other than packaged mineral water) was mandatory with effect from March 29, 2001, under the PFA i.e. prior to FSS Act became operational.
Taking a serious note of the issue, CEO, FSSAI, held a meeting with officers of BIS and representatives from three main packaged drinking water manufacturers namely PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Bisleri. The FBOs were directed to respond on the media reports. All the FBOs refuted the report and claimed that all their manufacturing/ processing units of packaged drinking water were licensed by FSSAI and BIS certified. Accordingly, FBOs were directed to submit all the details of their various manufacturing/ processing units including third-party manufacturer, processors.
The details forwarded by FBOs were verified by FSSAI and it was found that the FBOs have valid FSSAI/ BIS Licence/ Certification. It can be safely concluded that said FBOs comply with relevant provisions of FSS Act, Rules and Regulations made thereunder. Similar exercise for other food businesses in packaged drinking water is being taken up.
Public at large may kindly note that FSSAI and BIS is taking appropriate actions to ensure the quality and safety of package drinking water in the country.