Saturday, 11 November 2006
Food For Thought: India finally upgrades its food strandards
November 11, 2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 10: India has finally upgraded food standards to those of international specifications as part of the two-pronged strategy to protect the
health of citizens and effectively compete in the world market.
Under the new food standards, the Central government has fixed permissible limits for pesticide and pharmacological residues in food items including processed foods, fruits and vegetables. The new rules now in place stipulate that no food item should contain any contaminant, naturally occurring toxic substances, toxins, hormones, heavy metals, anti-biotics residues or myco-toxins beyond a permissible limit.
Manufacturers violating the new Rules will attract a prison term up to six months and a penalty ranging up to Rs 5 lakh. There is also compensation for the kin of the victims of contaminated food. In case of death, the compensation is Rs 5 lakh. For serious injuries (health hazards) the compensation fixed is Rs 3 lakh and Rs 1 lakh for other health hazards.
"Thus far, India has been following its own food standards. Now it has upgraded its standards to those of Codex Alimentarius Commission, a body jointly set up by the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations. This will ensure protection of human life and health as well as consumers' interests," says Dr V Sudarshan Rao, senior scientist at the National Institute of Nutrition here.
Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organisation are currently in the city to discuss with local health scientists and nutrition experts the importance of Codex standards and the benefits India and its citizens would accrue from upgrading the local food standards. With Indian falling in line, the food standards of edible items right from apple juice to almonds, from ice cream to canned fish and from salted peanuts to cheese and infant milk products will be on international health specifications and food safety norms.
According to Biplab K Nandi, FAO senior food and nutrition officer, the purpose of Codex standards are to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade and promote coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organisations.
To ensure that the new food standards are implemented all over the country effectively, the Centre has proposed a Food Safety and Standards Authority of India at the national level. There will also be similar bodies at the State level. Scientific panels and food panels have also been proposed to monitor food additives, flavourings, processing aids, pesticides and anti-biotic residues, genetically modified organisms and foods, dietetic products, biological hazards, crop contaminants, heavy metals, pharmacological active substances and irradiation of foods.
It has also imposed restriction on import of any unsafe, misbranded or substandard food or food containing extraneous matter.
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