Friday, 10 November 2006

India finally upgrades 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

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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