As many as 12 food and pharmaceutical industry bodies have demanded an investigation into the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), with one going as far as to call the regulator a “den of corruption”.
Organisations including the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the All India Food Processors Association and the Indian Drugs Manufacturers Association have formed a national joint action committee to press for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into how the FSSAI functions.
The regulator has been at the centre of a number of scandals this year, most notably the Maggi affair, in which it demanded Nestlé India take its best selling instant noodles off shelves based on claims, later dismissed by the courts, that the product contained excess lead and MSG.
The joint action committee told reporters that the food industry has been badly affected due to the FSSAI’s autocratic approach and alleged irregularities in the way it operated.
“The food safety authority has succumbed to pressure from multinational companies and wants to promote the sale of packed food in India. If a trader wants to follow all the safety standards he cant do so,” said CAIT secretary general Praveen Khandelwal.
"The environment in the FSSAI is like that of a private limited company. It has become autocratic, there is no actual representation of consumer organisations or business organisations on its committees.
“And as a result, the food industry is on the verge of being ruined. Therefore we demand a CBI inquiry into the affairs and functioning of FSSAI,” Khandelwal added.
The joint also committee has also demanded a refund of Rs800m (US$12.2m) which it claimed had been collected by the FSSAI as part of the process of approving new products.
“About Rs80cr has been collected by the FSSAI for product approvals through advisories, and these since advisories have no locus stand [basis in law], the said fund should either be refunded to persons from whom it is collected or should be used for the ‘Clean India’ drive of the Prime Minister,” CAIT said in a statement.
And it has called for all advisories the regulator has issued since 2013 to be withdrawn, based on a ruling by the Supreme Court in August, which also called into question the FSSAI’s practices.
There has been no reported response by the FSSAI to the joint action committee's claims.