Monday 16 January 2012

Govt draws up mega plan to ensure food safety

NEW DELHI: The government, it seems, has finally woken up to the threat of adulteration and contamination in food products and is planning a slew of measure to shore up food safety.

It plans to set up cluster laboratories of accredited standards for every 4-5 districts to carry out basic tests and zonal food laboratories (1 in 10 districts) to perform tests for residues and heavy metals and 10 referral laboratories considering that a network of efficient laboratories is the backbone of a credible food safety initiative.

In addition, mobile laboratory facilities will also be started to cater to large public congregations, natural calamities, disease outbreak and inaccessible areas.

Under the ambitious plan, the government will spend around Rs 6,548 crore on food safety measures during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) that include strengthening of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

For the first time, the government plans to establish food safety offices in every district at the cost of around Rs 2,200 crore to tighten the food safety enforcement system.

There is also a plan to set up a National Food Science and Risk Assessment Centre costing Rs 155 crore. The dedicated institution under the direct control of FSSAI will conduct regulatory research and risk assessment, as well as oversee surveillance on the lines of international institutions like Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the US and other countries. The institute is also envisaged to carry out a food safety risk analysis training programmes.

The Centre will be the repository of all food standards and will carry out all risk assessment related work and analyze food surveillance data received from labs and other surveillance organizations.

Along with networking of all food testing labs working, Planning Commission's working group on food safety has also recommended upgradation of Central Food Laboratories in Mumbai and Kolkata which will cost Rs 40 crore.

The group recommended that bio-safety should be an integral part of any risk assessment being undertaken by FSSAI. It is of the view that sufficient focus on food safety issues is lacking in the curriculum of MBBS and an appropriate module on food safety and bio-safety needs to be introduced at the earliest.

It also talked of spending Rs 50 crore for nation-wide food safety surveillance network and data collection on regular basis, along with a budget of Rs 669 crore to be spent on creating awareness of food safety related issues in the country.

The government will strengthen national food safety helpline, along with reward scheme to encourage public and employees to give information regarding unsafe food and malpractices within or outside the system.

The helpline will be strengthened to ensure direct communication with all stakeholders in an interactive manner. It will be linked to the emergency response centres in the states.

A National Food Safety Training Institute at FSSAI will be set up which will provide regular training programmes for trainers of food safety personnel and also other stakeholders. A fund of Rs 15 crore is proposed for conducting training programmes during the plan period.


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