Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Aug 26, 2005
Industry & Economy
Foods & Food Processing
Marketing - Standards & Benchmarks
Food Safety & Standards Bill tabled in Lok Sabha
New Delhi , Aug. 25
THE Food Safety and Standards Bill 2005 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. The Bill seeks to set up a single regulator that will put in place food standards, and regulate manufacturing, import, processing, distribution and sale of food products.
Called the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, the body will consist of members from various ministries, and representatives from State Governments, the food industry, consumer organisations and even farmers' organisations. Scientific committees and panels will assist it in fixing standards, while a Central Advisory Committee will prioritise the work.
The enforcement of the legislation will be through the State Commissioner for Food Safety and Panchayati Raj/ municipal bodies.
The Food Bill not only incorporates the salient provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, but is also based on international legislations, instrumentalities and Codex Alimentaries Commission (related to food safety norms).
The proposed body will regulate the limits on the usage of food additives, crop contaminants, pesticide residues, heavy metals, processing aids, myco-toxins, antibiotics and pharmacological active substances.
It will formulate mechanisms and guidelines for the accreditation of bodies engaged in the certification of a food safety management system for the food business.
It will also set up food labelling standards, including claims on health, nutrition and special dietary uses.
The Bill seeks to regulate nutraceuticals and dietary supplements.
It has stressed on proper labelling and has said that information should not be misleading.
Imposing restrictions on advertising, it specified, "No advertisement shall be made of any food, which is misleading or contravenous to the provisions of this Act."
The Bill has imposed safeguards on imports of food products.
No person shall be allowed to import unsafe, misbranded or sub-standard food and importing would require a licence.
Stringent penalties have also been proposed in the Bill.
For instance, the penalty for selling sub-standard food could extend to Rs 5 lakh, while for selling misbranded food, it could be as much as Rs 3 lakh.
Any person who publishes or is party to the publication of an ad, which falsely describes any food or misleads the consumer, will be liable to a penalty of Rs 10 lakh. It has suggested compensation in case of injury or death of the consumer.
The Bill has also mooted the establishment of a Food Safety Appellate Tribunal to hear the appeals of disputed parties.
Reacting to the introduction of the Bill, food industry sources said that they are open to any scientific exercise in the interest of consumers.
"However, implementation is going to be a big challenge, as there are not enough laboratories that can do sensitive and detailed testing," said a top official.
But if the Bill helps make this happen, it is a good start, they added.
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