The Challenge of Reliable Food Analysis in Food Safety Net

23 November 2016 | Column | By Dr. V. Prakash,FRSC

Food Analysis in Food Safety Food Analysis in Food Safety

The Food is analysed according to various accredited scientific analytical methodologies that are today highly capable of detecting contaminants, toxins, chemicals, pathogens and any adverse effect due to processing, through even biological markers.

These are estimated by well-established analytical methods and one can even detect 1/100th of parts per billion. In other words, the analysis is so sensitive that as a crude comparison we can say one can trace a finger ring in the entire population of India. That is the sensitivity we are talking about in the present analytical methods. In spite of this, the various laboratories as both the Central Food Laboratories of FSSAI & the state laboratories (in each state there are state laboratories), accredited FSSAI laboratories which are public / private (more than 60), the individual industry laboratories (plenty) and many public / private laboratories which are not accredited but still functioning have all a major role to play. These put together can help the consumer and FSSAI.

There are global laboratories that also give their services for analysis. All of them can be synchronized in the safety net in the society with a comprehensive plan by FSSAI with global standards as a must to be used in these laboratories. Survey and monitoring needs to be done certainly more continuously and frequents. But this requires constant drawing of samples of packed or processed foods and those openly sold, from time to time and analyse quickly. Quick disposal for recalling or discarding or clearing them to bring in the rigor of the need of implementation of food safety in the system rapidly is the need of the hour. Dynamic analysis of food has a major role to play in this important agenda of food safety net in the country.

However, the packaged foods are analysed more than the non-packaged and open & raw foods due to traceability issues and whom to hold responsible in the end. There can be problems in both, but the hygiene of the various non-packaged foods are quite complicated in a country like India which is a tropical country where within a few hours the food can go bad and not fit for consumption (including catering in Air, Train, Land etc.) as well as handing in the food chain due to high temperature.

Therefore the FSSAI has such a large magnitude of work to strategize and to ensure a safe food surveillance on a dynamic basis. They must also trace the problems to the source and refer it back to the manufacturers or recall and solve the problem so that a safe food is assured from time to time on a regular time table and framework for the their internal monitoring and also for consumer. This is easier said than done. However, if the food is found to be unsafe it should be withdrawn from the market, even if it is fresh food or from a public cooking area or from a factory or a corporate dining Hall or from a hotel or hostel or hospital or from airlines, or railways. Whatever is the source, the system must work in a rapid manner. At the moment there is nothing like such a distinction between the two namely packed and not packed food in the dynamic survey to the constantly monitored and the inroads of unsafe Foods are many by cross contamination. There is an urgent need for addressing this issue on a Pan India basis.

 

How are we gearing up to minimize the above problems in future? Have we got the human resource to do this online? This is especially so as, when food is supposed to be not fit for consumption, by the time we realize that by analysis and by the time the official procedures communicate, sometimes it is so delayed and people would have al-ready consumed by that time and the Food cannot be traced back to the source and recalled from the market.

Therefore quick action within 24 hours and alert is needed and that is where India’s Information Technology can help a lot provided the inter-departmental and interministerial interactions happens in a concerted orchestrated format for assuring Safe Food to the public. The journey of FSSAI till now has remarkably de-livered a large confidence in public with even the latest logo of fortification being released, but more miles to go in this vast country to have that assurance of what I am eating is safe. It is this network and integrated approach that can only lead to sustain-able solutions for a safe food for the consumer at large and the Nu Safe FFooDS will pose more challenges of analysis and communication in time to save unsafe Food from reaching the consumer gut.

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