Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has written a letter to the Food Safety Commissioners of different states for an awareness and training Programme about “Good Agricultural Practices” and the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act for the primary producers to look into the problem of contaminants and residues of various pesticides post-harvesting.
FSS act 2006 is an act to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The letter mentioned that the Programme can be organized in collaboration with state departments of animal husbandry, agriculture, fisheries, dairying, Krishi Vigyan Kendra and Indian Council of Agricultural Research. According to Ritu Sharma, Senior Public relations of Equinox Labs, the matter gained popularity after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health observed that harmful contaminants and components enter the food system during the time of primary production. Food authorities were asked to ensure that the food was safe right from the start of the food chain and that they needed to work closely with the primary producers.
Equinox Labs has 15 years of experience in Food, water and air testing services and leads Food safety auditing. Approved by FSSAI, Equinox Labs explained the procedure of working. They said, “Once the food enters the food value chain, FSSAI being the apex food regulator, regulates and monitors the contaminants and maximum residue limits for various pesticides in far produce.” As per the information given by Equinox Labs, “An official informed that FSSAI has issued various codes of exercises under the Food Safety Management System for fish, fish products, meat, meat products, milk, milk products and so on, along with vegetable edible oils.”
Moreover, FSSAI has also issued a number of guidance materials on major food safety issues pertaining to the primary production level regarding metal aflatoxins, pesticides, contaminants and issue of formalin. An expert’s take, Mr. Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs is, “Conducting awareness and training Programme about Good Animal Husbandry Practices (GAHP), Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Animal Feeding Practices (GAFP) etc., apart from integrated pest management, can prove to be very beneficial for the primary producers in our country.”
Eat News asked CEO to be more specific about the harmful contaminants mentioned by or any kind of observations during the production that is considered wrong, to which he responded, “It’s not about specific ‘components’ here. They are referring to the pesticide residues that remain on or in the food when pesticides are applied to food crops. Regulatory bodies decide the levels of pesticide residue that is considered allowable. FSSAI wants concerning authorities to come together and conduct educative Programme for the primary producers to help them understand the impacts of various medicines they use.”
He also shared about kind of training Programme it is appealed to initiate through the letter. He said, “Again, the training refers to the use of permissible medicines at the root level. Medicines that not only do the job but would also have fewer negative impacts on, say, animal husbandry (animals raised on farms for meat, milk, eggs etc. suffer serious hormonal damage from these pesticides). If passed on for human consumption, this could be very harmful.” Further to his statement, “Moreover, in order to make the fishes survive the contaminants in the water, certain medicines are administered to them which again has severe internal impacts, rendering these fishes not-so-fit for human consumption.”
The same issue was tackled by the regulatory bodies in 2015 in India when Nestle’s Maggi got banned after the tests showed excessive lead in the food item and for alleged mislabeling over flavor enhancer MSG. Maggi is the most preferrable one by every age group in India. So, when the news came out, people were heartbroken and angry especially kids. But Maggi did return to the stores later after the court lifted restriction. And now Nestle removed the claim of “No added MSG”. According to Aswin Bhadri, the lack of knowledge was the problem in this case. He said, “Lack of Knowledge is the main problem this Programme is trying to solve. However, the Programme is targeted more at the ignorance of the farmers and primary producers rather than the ineptness of the brand owners to comprehend processes.”
He continued, “This practice would not only ensure safe food right from the beginning but also educate our farmers.”
On August 7, 2020, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India published a notification of amending the food safety and standards regulations, 2011. It deals with the toxins, contaminants and residues. Four metals that majorly concern in food are lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury. According to the information, the amendment shall come into effect on July 1, 2021, regarding maximum limits of metal contaminants and mycotoxins.
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