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Industry attacks Indian regulators over food safety rules

By Ankush Chibber , 07-May-2012

India’s new food safety authority is coming under a broad-based attack from local traders who have termed the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 ‘draconian’ and ‘biased.’

The 2006 act had replaced the erstwhile Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of of 1954 and it went into force in August last year, after which the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) gained regulatory powers.

Now, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) is leading the charge on the act and the authority, starting with organising a national conference of trade leaders in New Delhi on May 10 and 11.

Terming the act unreasonable and impractical, CAIT secretary general BC Bhartia said that the act has aped western norms and disregards the conditions under which domestic small and medium food enterprises work.

“The act wants local food companies to prepare an audit report, obtain clearance from state pollution control board, get a no-objection certificate from the municipal corporation, medical certificates of workers, and hire a graduate technologist,” Bhartia told FoodNavigator-Asia.

Western influence?

Bhartia pointed out that the act’s rules are more relevant to western food processing and retail ecosystems, where the authorities do not even provide supporting infrastructure.

“The Act wants most food to be supplied and kept at a cold temperature, while every one knows the condition and heavy costs of cold chain infrastructure in the country,” he said.

Bhartia revealed that CAIT is talking to the FSSAI to remove contentious norms within the act, and is of the opinion that if they were retained, local food industries would be wiped out in the influx of multinational brands.

“For example, even the small and medium enterprise has to pay the same fees and get the same tests done on their raw material at accredited labs as a big enterprise. That is not sustainable for small Indian companies,” he pointed out.

Bhartia said that it is impractical to think smaller enterprises can afford these non-product expenses of lab testing and food audits under the current scenario without passing on the costs to their consumers, which would be fatal.

“We have talked to the FSSAI. We have issues with at least 70 of the act’s requirements. Our demand with the government has also been made. We have asked for a Parliamentary committee to review the act,” he said. 

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