The Food Safety and Standards Act, passed by Indian Parliament in 2006, gives local consumers the power to take samples, get those tested and lodge complaints for prosecution of those accused of food adulteration.
The act, under which the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) was also formed as an auditory, inspection, and enforcement agency, was delayed as standards for implementation were still being developed.
“Under the old system, there were a set of eight regulations that governed varied food products and there were quite a bit of delays and roadblocks hence to get hold of adulterators,” a FSSAI official said.
“The new act sets up a unified law to regulate the entire range of food products in the market,” he said.
According to the official, the new act will now for the first time also cover nutraceuticals, i.e. food products with medical and health benefits, as well as nutrition supplements, health and functional foods.
“All these products were earlier unregulated and unchecked, but the new act will empower local food safety authorities under the aegis of FSSAI to ensure that they are regulated for safety and quality,” he said.
The official also noted that one of the bigger advantages of the new act will be that it would set time limits for prosecutions after a complaint has been lodged with the food inspector.
This is unlike the previous system, where no time frames were set up for investigation and prosecution in case of food safety breaches, he explained.
“The new act enforces a time limit of one year from the date of commission of the offence within which the trial has to begin. This is to speed up the process given that we already have 100,000 food safety cases in Indian courts as of date,” he said.
The act also lays out the penalties for food safety cases, with violators getting possibly fined for a penalty of 1 million rupees or life imprisonment, he added.