FSSAI: Transforming the Food Safety and Nutrition Landsca pe in India
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act) was operationalised with the notification of Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011 and six Regulations w.e.f. 5th August, 2011. The Food Safety and standards Authority of India (FSSAI) continued to work for promotion of the cause of availability of safe and wholesome food to the consumers during 2016-2017.
“Safe, wholesome and hygienic food will create ‘Swasth Bharat’. This has to be cornerstone of the efforts of FSSAI. The completion of decade is a good opportunity for FSSAI to take stock of the past work and strategize the way for the future with greater effort, passion and dedication.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Governance and Administration
FSSAI has built an agile and high performing team by sourcing the right talent from various sectors, scientific community, IT and technical experts. This has helped in setting a new learning culture which strives to make FSSAI a young, energetic, and a learning organization. FSSAI began its journey with 40 full time employees in 2008, which has now grown to over 250 people.
- Internal capacity of FSSAI significantly strengthened.
- Overlaying the functional divisions, cross-functional teams formed for end -to-end solutions by food categories and address concern areas such as anti-microbial resistance, doping substance abuse etc.
- Diverse talent pool created with regular employees, deputationists, consultants, experts on the part-time basis and employees on secondment basis and interns.
- Several steps taken up to improve workplace environment.
- Expenditure has increased to INR 76.95 crores in FY16-17 from INR 19 crores in 2009-2010.
- Total receipts have increased exponentially from INR 41 lakhs in 2009-2010 to INR 34 crores in 2016-17.
FSSAI is responsible for framing standards for food products which are reviewed taking into account the latest development in food science, food consumption patterns, new products, and additives, advancement in processing technology & food analytical methods, and identification of new risks. Development of standards is undertaken by 17 Scientific panels and a scientific committee comprising of more than 220 subject independent scientist /experts of eminence
- Process to set food standards streamlined and speeded up.
- Eight Standards Review Groups Constituted to identify gaps in standards and suggest new standards to promote innovation in food industry.
- New Scientific Panel on Food Fortification and Nutrition Constituted.
- Where Possible, Codex standards adopted till finalization of national standards. New regulations and guidelines relating to recall, traceability, product approval, food eCommerce and food fortification finalized.
- Work on new regulations on labelling, claims and advertisements, packaging, organic food, collection and distribution of surplus food initiated.
- IFS. Quick Access tool developed for easy access of all Indian food standards.
- Food safety Knowledge Assimilation Network (FSKAN) platform created for exchange of scientific knowledge and to facilitate research funding.
Registration, Licensing and Compliance
Food businesses are required to be registered or licensed to commence or carry on any food business as per eligibility criteria for Central License, State License and Registration. There are more than 30,000 FBOs with central licenses, more than 3 lakh state licenses and over 28 lakh registrations
- Process of online licensing and registration simplified and streamlined in consultation with National Centre for Good Governance.
- Simplified and transparent system put in place to manage delays and address grievance of food businesses.
- Special drive taken up to bring all food businesses within the purview of FSSAI licensing /registration.
- Successful tie-up with Common Services Centre SPV for registration of food businesses.
Build Institutional Capacity in States/UTs for Food Safety
Food Safety enforcement is conducted through States/UTs. A total of 36 Food Safety Commissioners for various States and UTs deploy enforcement through nearly 3000 Food Safety Officers (FSO) along with Designated Officers and Adjudicating Officers.
- Support provided to States for building institutional capacity through coordinated approach
- Training & capacity building of regulatory & lab staff
- Leadership training and improved interface including regular video-conferencing sessions.
Currently, FSSAI has presence at six locations namely Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Cochin and Tuticorin covering 23 ports of entry. To maintain parity of testing and import clearance at ports where FSSAI is not present, officials from custom department have been notified as Authorized Officers on 135 locations and officials of Kandla SEZ is notified as Authorized Officer of AT Kandla.
- Food import regulations finalized.
- Procedure for food imports simplified and aligned with policy to promote ‘Ease of Doing Business’ through single window interface on ICEGATE portal.
- Risk based inspections have been introduced.
- A system of mutual accreditation / recognition of food laboratories and agencies to facilitate imports put in place.
FSSAI notifies food laboratories and research institutions accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) or and other accreditation agency for the purpose of carrying out analysis of samples by Food analysts. Over the years, the food testing system has been strengthened.
- Work to strengthen 45 State food labs with state-of-the-art testing facilities initiated.
- Mobile food labs being established.
- Referral food laboratories have been strengthened, covering all regions. There is at least one such laboratory of each broad category of food.
- Thirteen new manuals on methods of food analysis finalized.
- Testing charges rationalised.
- Training and capacity building of lab staff.
- Work on Indian Food Laboratory IT Network (InFoLNet) initiated to provide IT backbone to the food labs.
- The number of FSSAI notified NABL Accredited Labs have doubled since 2014 to 2017 with a total of 131 Labs around the country.
Safe Food Practices
The assurance of food safety cannot be based on food product tests alone. Food businesses must implement an efficient Food Safety Management System (FSMS) based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and suitable pre-requisite programs to ensure food safety.
- Food Safety management System (FSMS) Division established to focus on safe food practices across the value chain.
- Nine technical panels constituted to support the work of this division.
- To draft and review Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) by food category.
- To develop inspection formats, guidance document and training modules.
Food Safety Training
Training of personnel in food businesses is a pre-requisite for ensuring food safety and hygiene. FSSAI seeks to ensure training programmes in food safety and standards for persons who are or intend to get involved in food businesses, wheter as food business operators, employees or otherwise.
- All food businesses would henceforth require that they have at least one trained and certified food safety supervisor in all premises so as to build their capacity for self-compliance. Such supervisors would in turn be responsible for training of food handlers.
- Large scale training and capacity building efforts initiated through Food Safety Training and Certification (FoSTaC) system.
- Resource persons and master trainers for the same are being developed.
- A dedicated portal to manage this training put in place.
Social and Behavioral Change
- Training of personnel in food businesses is a pre-requisite for ensuring food safety and hygiene. FSSAI seeks to ensure training programmes in food safety and standards for persons who are or intend to get involved in food businesses, whether as food business operators, employees or otherwise.
- A 360-degree approach, focusing on home, school, workplace and while eating out. Information dissemination, awareness workshops, training & capacity building are key elements under each initiative.
- Initiatives are in partnership with other stakeholders: Government Partners, Industry Associations, Corporates, Civil Society Organization, Resource Persons etc.
- Creates Health & Wellness Coordinators and Food Safety Supervisors.
Consumers have a right to information, informed choice, right to education around safe and nutritious food, right to be protected from unfair trade practices and right to redress their grievances. FSSAI is committed at empowering consumers and protecting their rights.
- Dedicated ‘Food Smart Consumer’ portal put in place to provide easy access to consumers, facilitate them to make informed choices, protect them from unfair practices and to ensure prompt redressal of grievances.
- Includes a ‘Safe Water Portal’ wherein citizens can get test results of packaged water that is available in the market.
- Steps have been taken to manage FSSAI Contact Centre through a professional agency.
Promote Healthy Diets
India suffers a triple burden of under-nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and over-nutrition. FSSAI has taken several steps to address these challenges.
- Standards and logo for food fortification notified.
- Promotion of large scale food fortification in five staples, namely rice, wheat flour, milk, edible oil and salt have been taken upto promote healthy diets.
- Efforts initiated to reduce consumption of high fat sugar and salt (HFSS) foods and promote healthy eating habits among citizens.
- Coordinated project, ‘Diet for Life’ launched to ensure availability of special diets for people (particularly children) suffering from inherited metabolic diseases.
Prevent and Manage Food Waste and Food Loss
Steps initiated to prevent and manage food waste and food loss through regulatory support and platform to connect donors and organizations that distribute food to the needy.
Promote Hygienic Street Food and Local Food Culture
An initiative has been taken to promote hygienic street food and Indian traditional food, ‘Indian Food Culture: let’s Bring the Goodness Back’ under the FSSAI’s mandate to ensure safe and whole some food.
Large scale adoption of technology is the key to ensure efficiency, transparency, enhanced outreach and more effective compliance and control. Technology has been key enabler for FSSAI, for enabling effective engagement with the end user, and driving performance.
- Full-fledged IT division has been established and IT infrastructure has been strengthened.
- New look FSSAI website has been launched and several microsites for various initiatives have been developed.
- Big data analytics is being used for strategic decision making in improving licensing, compliance and imports.
FSSAI has enhanced its global outreach by promoting international collaboration in various areas and effectively fulfilled its mandate is ensure safety and quality of food produced and consumed domestically or traded internationally.
- Several activities taken up under the World Bank’s Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) and EU-CITD project.
- An international Training Centre at Mumbai is being established in partnership with Export Inspection Council (EIC) and support of GFSP.
- FSSAI has active partnership with many countries in the area of food safety and nutrition.
Roadmap for the Future
Ever since in 2013, when the printing of the FSSAI logo and license number on food labels was made mandatory, FSSAI has become more and more visible. FSSAI logo has begun to inspire trust in consumers. Now, the main challenge for FSSAI is to reinforce this trust and support it with robust backend systems and processes. Five key elements of such a system would be –
- Unambiguous food safety standards based on robust methodology of risk assessment.
- Safe storage and transportation, manufacturing and processing, distribution and retail practices that food businesses should follow.
- Reliable food testing laboratories to estimate food safety levels.
- Transparent, effective and light-touch compliance verification system through risk based inspections.
- Regular food safety surveys to assess impact and provide insights for continuous improvement in the system.
- Social and behavior change to inculcate a habit and culture of safe and wholesome food.