India’s food safety ecosystem
Seema Shukla PhD
India is the leading global producer of a number of foods and has the potential to be the food basket of the world. This potential can be harnessed by consistently providing safe, high-quality products to consumers. Food safety is a critical part of both domestic and international trade and requires focussed food safety policies and frameworks to protect public health across the food chain.
The burden of foodborne illnesses on the world is substantial with more than 600 million cases and 420 000 deaths annually (WHO 2015). Coordinated efforts and effective leadership can prevent this. The agricultural supply and livestock value chain has experienced a remarkable change in the last few decades that has provided both significant challenges and real opportunities for regulators, farmers, producers, and retail service providers as well as for associated adjacent professionals. In this era of globalization where a product originating from a farm in India reaches the plate of a consumer in Europe, the need for safety and hygiene practices is not the responsibility of any single country. There is a need for enhanced transparency and reliable supply chains. Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations and standards are gaining importance as increased food trade heightens the need to build confidence between trading partners.
It is imperative, especially for low and middle-income countries, to adopt and implement comprehensive national food control programs based on the international guidance provided by FAO and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Low and middle-income countries benefit from increased acceptance by consumers and improved access to foreign markets when they supply higher-quality and safer domestically-produced raw and processed foods. The Codex-based standards provide better acceptance and efficiency in food production, processing, and distribution; reduce food loss problems; and promote a safe domestic supply for increased export trade. This article examines the food safety ecosystem in India and the various challenges the country must overcome to provide a safe food journey.
The food safety ecosystem in India
The paradigm shift in India’s approach to food control occurred when the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act to Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 was replaced. The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been working since its inception in 2008 towards establishing a food safety system supported by science-based standards, regulatory enforcement, creating awareness among the public, and developing trust. FSSAI, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the SPS notifying authority, is responsible for food control, inspection, surveillance, and setting standards for food products for both domestic and import trade. However, the act does not cover primary production, farm products, wet markets, or feed and fodder safety. While the Indian authorities need to take a comprehensive look at the applicability of food controls throughout the entire food and feed chain, there is not a complete absence of controls because other ministries are actively involv
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