The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is leading the work towards a new regulatory mechanism to check food items imported to India, Dr K Chandramouli, chairperson at the FSSAI, said this week.
Chandramouli pointed out that Indian food exporters ran into a variety of regulatory hurdles when exporting abroad, but the same could not be said of importers in India.
“Our food exporters have to adhere to various stringent set of rules and regulations for exporting food, while we do not put the same sort of stringency on imported food,” said Chandramouli said of regulation in the imported food sector.
“It is imperative to evolve standards for domestically consumed food as we have been having a lacksadaisical approach towards setting standards. We do have some standards to begin with but we need to take more steps in this regard to ensure the safety of food for consumption which comes from outside,” he added.
Building a consensus
Chandramouli said that the new mechanism is being worked out in consultation with all the stakeholders including scientists, laboratories, experts and industry representatives.
“We are talking to operators involved in import-export of food to ensure that for their goods get accepted we need to set standards that are internationally minimum,” he said, adding that new standards will be out by year's end.
Chandramouli remarked that it was important to have the direct stakeholder; the importer into the discussion, since a consensus was also needed amongst the importers of various products and regions to agree as a body.
Devanshu Malhan, an importer of confectionary products for retail stores in India, told FoodNavigator-Asia that the move towards a standardised ecosystem is a good thing provided all the importers are heard.
“You can’t just take the interests of one food sector into consideration and make a standard for all. If that is taken care of, I think we will have a better-regulated market that will benefit all. The safety end of it would be taken care of,” he said, in reference to concerns in India about the quality of imports.