“Counterfeit food items, being totally illegal, bypass all mandatory quality checks and pose a grave danger to the health of our citizens. It is absolutely imperative that the problem is dealt with effectively” said Secretary (HFW) Preeti Sudan at the video-conference (VC) addressing the Principal Secretaries of States and UTs, in New Delhi recently.
High Court of Delhi vide order dated 19.08.2019 had directed the Secretary of Health and Family Welfare to hold a meeting of the Food Safety Departments of the State Governments along with FSSAI and submit a report on the manner in which counterfeiting of food products can be tracked, recorded and curbed in an effective manner. The video conference was held in compliance to the High Court order.
Secretary, HFW highlighted the issue of counterfeit food products and requested the Principal Secretaries to hold periodic drives with the help of police authorities so that the menace is kept in check. The need for stepping up surveillance during the festival time was also emphasized. Sudan added that there is a need to ensure requisite availability of manpower for all activities of food safety, “States/UTs need to clearly identify the number of Designated officers (DO) and Food Safety officers (FSO) posts required for food safety administration and take steps to create the posts and fill them. Similarly, technical posts in laboratories need to be filled up, besides upgrading of the laboratories.” Secretary (HFW) emphasized that the Deputy Commissioners/ District Magistrates must be sensitized by State/ UT Governments to curb counterfeit food and they should take up a leadership role in drives against such activity. Principal Secretaries were requested to pass on directions to the Food Commissioners;as the implementation of the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 primarily rests with the States and UTs, there has to be effective implementation of the same. The Secretary(HFW) further added that strong action against counterfeit food products must be taken and brought to the notice of the public to generate awareness; the Health Secretaries of States/UTs must review the action taken every month and inform FSSAI.
The VC saw attendance of various States/ UTs including Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Manipur, Puducherry, Goa, Chandigarh, Tripura, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh. The Principal Secretaries explained the steps being taken by their States & UTs to tackle the issue under discussion. Some States have well designed calendars for food safety drives which are shared with enforcement agencies at the beginning of the year. Many States ensure that every complaint about quality and genuineness of food products is verified, which has yielded good results. It was discussed that training of officers and enhancing surveillance capabilities is necessary, successful raids should be given wide publicity through the media, consumer awareness needs to be promoted and they must be encouraged to insist on bills while purchasing food products etc.. Most States also felt that food manufacturers must introduce, track and trace mechanisms for their products. States were requested to cross learn from each other and adopt as many of these best practices as they find feasible. The Principal Secretaries of the States and UTs were also requested to participate in the meetings of Central Advisory Committee of FSSAI.