Sunday, 22 May 2011

"Food safety plans" for cities, towns and villages in India soon

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  With diet and food habits being tagged to good health and longevity, the Central government now envisages "food safety plans" for cities, towns and villages in the country.
The Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011 make a provision for food safety plans for all civic and local bodies to ensure that safe food and food products are served to people. The new Rules will replace the age-
old Food Adulteration Act to make the food safety legislation more effective in view of various food surveys showing that 85 per cent of foods available in the market are either of low quality or unfit for
human consumption.
While many countries including neighbouring China have already prepared food safety plans right from the grass roots level, India has thus far lagged behind on the food safety front. The responsibility of preparing the food safety plans for municipal bodies and panchayats has been entrusted to "designated officers", who will be appointed soon.
Every State will have a commissioner of food safety to ensure that quality food products are manufactured and sold in the market. The existing food inspectors, many of whom do not know the chemistry or biology of food, will be replaced by food safety officers, who are specialised in medicine, veterinary science, food or dairy technology, biotechnology, biochemistry, microbiology, chemistry or agricultural sciences.
The new Rules also prohibit shopkeepers, vendors or workers in hotels and restaurants from dealing with foodstuff if they are suffering from or harbouring the germs of any infectious disease. The diseases include 
simple human influenza or common cold to tuberculosis and contagious skin ailments including STD. The food safety officer concerned is empowered to refer the suspects to a qualified medical professional for medical examination.
According to PI Suvrathan, chairman of Food Safety Standards Authority of India, the new food rules also scrutinise the claims of manufacturers. This particularly pertains to claims on organic and probiotic foods.
Any food stuff or product, which is of sub-standard quality or contaminated with harmful agents is liable to be seized and food safety officers are empowered to initiate penal action against unscrupulous manufacturers and traders. There's a provision for recall of food products if they fail to meet the prescribed standards.
Imported packages, which are suspected to contain articles of food, the import or sale of which is prohibited, will also be stopped from being circulated in the market. Food products will tested in private laboratories too as the State-owned labs are overburdened with test samples.

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