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Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

10 states unequipped to ensure food safety: FSSAI

  • FSSAI says many of the poorly performing states have not been able to put in place full-time staff for food safety and do not have proper labs
  • Food regulator analyses total 106,459 samples across the country and finds over 15.8% food samples as sub-standard, 3.7% unsafe and 9% mislabelled during the year 2018-19

NEW DELHI : At least 10 states in India are unequipped to ensure food safety, owing to scarcity of staff and food testing laboratory infrastructure, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said on Monday.

According to the apex food regulator, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Telengana, and Uttarakhand are the worst performing states on food safety.

With its own admission to the shortfalls, the FSSAI said that many of the poorly performing states have not been able to put in place full-time officers for food safety and do not have proper food testing laboratories despite the food safety law coming into force over a decade ago.

“More rigorous enforcement by States is essential to build public trust in food. Public trust has been eroded in recent times due to fake news creating widespread perception of large-scale adulteration in the country. FSSAI is working with states and UTs, particularly with weaker ones in this regard," said Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI. “For this, FSSAI is increasing the capacity of State food laboratories and enabling use of private food labs for testing food samples. Enforcement efforts have to better targeted and preceded by surveillance efforts to identify hotspots and problem areas," he said.

However, the food regulator has also noted improvement in food safety in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh.

FSSAI on Monday also released data on enforcement efforts by states and Union Territories in India.

It analysed a total of 106,459 samples across the country and found over 15.8% food samples as sub-standard, 3.7 % unsafe and 9% mislabelled during the year 2018-19.

This is the first year the data has been compiled for unsafe, sub-standard and labelling defects separately. Data released include samples analysed, non-conforming samples, cases launched, convictions and penalties by states/UTs during the year 2018-19 and also trends over the past three years.

According to the report, there has been a 7% increase in the number of samples analysed during 2018-19 as compared to 2017-18. 25% more samples were found non-conforming compared to the previous year. This shows that there has been better targeting of enforcement efforts by states/UTs in the country.

There has been a 36% increase in civil cases launched and a 67% increase in the number of cases where penalties were imposed. The amount of penalty imposed has increased by 23% during 2018-19 compared to the previous year, the report said.

A total amount of Rs32.58 crore has been realised during 2018-19. As far as criminal cases are concerned, the official statement said, there has been 86% increase in criminal cases launched. Since the conclusion of criminal cases takes time, a total of 5,198 cases were concluded during 2017-18 that included a backlog of previous years. During the year there have been 701 convictions in criminal cases so far.

Food borne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group of the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified 31 food borne hazards. In its first estimates of the incidence, mortality, and disease burden, this group has found that the global burden of food borne diseases (FBD) is comparable to those of the major infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

The most frequent causes of foodborne illness were diarrheal disease agents, particularly norovirus and Campylobacter spp. Diarrheal disease agents, especially non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica, were also responsible for the majority of deaths due to FBD. Other major causes of FBD deaths were Salmonella Typhi, Taenia solium and Hepatitis-A virus.

The global burden of FBD caused by the 31 hazards in 2010 was 33 million -- Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs); children under five years old borne 40% of this burden, although they represented only 9% of the global population. These facts call for urgent action by all stakeholders to improve food safety throughout the food chain with more coordinated efforts and greater focus.

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