Nurturing Safer, Healthier Food Ecosystem

Dr Prabodh S Halde, Head Regulatory Affairs, Marico Ltd  and Chairman, CASMB India

As the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reaches a significant milestone of 15 years, it’s a moment to reflect on the journey, achievements, and future directions of this pivotal authority. Since its inception, the FSSAI has diligently worked to consolidate food-related laws, establish food safety standards, and ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. Over the past decade and a half, the FSSAI has undergone remarkable reforms that have contributed to India’s evolving food landscape. I am fortunate to see this journey and partner in various initiatives from its inception.

The establishment of FSSAI was a visionary step towards ensuring food safety across the nation. Its primary goal was to create a science-based framework for regulating food standards and practices. In this pursuit, FSSAI has made noteworthy advancements, particularly in the last 15 years. 

Some of these achievements include:

  1. Streamlined Online Systems: FSSAI has revolutionised the licensing and import regulations processes by implementing a comprehensive online system. This shift has not only improved efficiency but also enhanced transparency and accessibility for food businesses.
  1. Nationwide Implementation of Regulations: The authority has succeeded in implementing a comprehensive set of regulations across the country. This uniform approach ensures that the safety and quality of food are consistent regardless of geographical location.
  1. Innovative Regulations: The FSSAI has introduced newer regulations such as those for Nutraceuticals, additives, claims, organic foods, Ayurveda Aahara, and non-specified food to name a few. These regulations reflect evolving consumer preferences and technological advancements in the food industry.
  1. Adjudication System: The establishment of an adjudication system has expedited decision-making processes. This has not only increased the efficiency of regulatory activities but also facilitated timely responses to emerging challenges.

Beyond its regulatory functions, FSSAI has made a significant impact on various sectors through initiatives like Nutrition and Fortification, Eat Right campaigns, training and development under FOSTAC, lab upgradation, and active participation in Codex. 

However, even with these achievements, there remain areas that deserve focused attention for the next phase of FSSAI’s journey:

Combatting Adulteration: Addressing adulteration remains a persistent challenge, especially in rural markets. Strengthening FSSAI’s collaboration with local Food and Drug Authorities is crucial to intensify efforts against this threat.

Laboratory Infrastructure Upgradation: Continuous investment in laboratory infrastructure is essential to maintain accurate and reliable testing capabilities. Consistent upgradation will bolster FSSAI’s ability to detect emerging contaminants and ensure adherence to established standards.

GMO Regulations: Establishing clear regulations for genetically modified products, along with raising public awareness about their benefits and safety, is imperative for fostering a robust biotechnology ecosystem.

Ease of Doing Business: FSSAI’s ongoing efforts to expedite the approval process for food businesses need to be further extended across all states. More liberty to state to be given to speed up the implementation and this would encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in the food sector.

Dynamic Labeling Changes: Revising regulatory labeling norms every two years can significantly reduce food wastage and economic losses. This adaptive approach will align regulations with market trends and technological advancements.

Promoting Innovation: By introducing regulations for emerging sectors such as smart protein sources, novel additives, GMOs, organic foods, and Ayurveda Ahara, FSSAI can have already provided the path, now the time has come to make it fully functional and acceptable to PAN India.

Capacity Building: Ensuring that FSSAI and related stakeholders possess the required capabilities and capacities is vital for sustaining a robust food safety regime.

Clearing Pendency: Following the example of Gujarat government’s successful resolution of pending cases, FSSAI could lead a nationwide initiative to clear such backlogs. This would not only benefit the government and industry but also protect national interests.

As India’s food landscape continues to evolve, the FSSAI’s role becomes even more critical. The authority’s commitment to enhancing food safety standards, promoting transparency, and nurturing innovation will undoubtedly shape the country’s food industry for years to come. As someone who has been intimately involved with the FSSAI since its inception, I am optimistic about the direction it’s taking, and I believe that the authority’s continued efforts will lead to a safer, healthier, and more vibrant food ecosystem for India.

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