The CAG report said that neither FSSAI nor the state food authorities had documented policies and procedures on risk based inspections, and the FSSAI does not have any database on the food business. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
The CAG report said that neither FSSAI nor the state food authorities had documented policies and procedures on risk based inspections, and the FSSAI does not have any database on the food business. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

CAG raps FSSAI over licencing process, poor food testing labs

The CAG report said FSSAI issued licences to food manufacturers on the basis of incomplete documents in more than 50% of cases checked in the audit

New Delhi: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has slammed the food safety regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) in a performance audit report released on Tuesday.

The CAG performance audit report said FSSAI issued licences to food manufacturers on the basis of incomplete documents in more than 50% of cases checked in the audit.

The audit on food safety was taken up to assess the performance of the ministry of health and family welfare, FSSAI and food regulatory authorities in 10 selected states.

The report said that neither FSSAI nor the state food authorities had documented policies and procedures on risk based inspections, and the FSSAI does not have any database on the food business. FSSAI has failed to ensure that the customs authorities follow up on the non-conformance reports issued by the FSSAI itself and take appropriate action to ensure that unsafe foods do not enter the country, it said.

The CAG held that food safety covers the entire food chain, and includes the stages of manufacturing or preparation, handling, transportation and storage of food in ways that prevent contamination and food-borne diseases. Any relaxation of food safety standards and their enforcement may lead to proliferation of illegal, dishonest manufacturers and suppliers, which is detrimental to public health.

“At least 65 out of the 72 state food laboratories to which FSSAI and state food safety authorities sent food samples for testing do not possess National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accreditation. Consequently, the quality of testing by these laboratories cannot be assured," the CAG report said.

The report highlighted that FSSAI has no data on public analysts declared eligible under the erstwhile Prevention of Food Adulteration Act who continue to function under the FSS Act. FSSAI also has no data on whether all the notified empanelled food laboratories have qualified food analysts. Audit test checks found that 15 out of the 16 test checked food laboratories did not have qualified food analysts, it said.

“Shortage of qualified manpower and functional food testing equipment in state food laboratories and referral laboratories resulted in deficient testing of food samples. There were significant delays in finalization of cases by Adjudicating Officers. Further, a significant portion of the penalty imposed remained uncollected," the report said.

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