An “International Conference on Best Practices in Food Safety Implementation” was organized by FSSAI in collaboration with Michigan State University, USA and TERI. The conference was held on 9th -11th November, 2010 at India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.
The participants deliberated on a host of issues including importance of public-private partnership in capacity building & knowledge dissemination, need for FSSAI to develop a mechanism to regulate proprietary foods & dietary supplements, adoption of international best practices in food
standards development, effective communication to consumers, need for a risk assessment, consumer friendly labelling, science based process for approving innovations, regulation of food advertisements, rationalization of labelling info and presentation there-of, harmonization of standards and reciprocity in
international standards & inspections, sector-wise and industry level based approach in phased manner for traceability mechanism implementation, need for development of national reference documents by FSSAI on subjects related to food, need for adopting a phased approach to achieve international standards etc.
The conference brought together a distinctive gathering of national and international experts of food industry from Food Safety Authority of Thailand, FDA of United States of America, Michigan State University of USA, National Institute of Nutrition- Hyderabad, Food Safety regulators from the States/ U.T.s in India, Consumer organizations, Industry, Academia, Research Institutions, Quality Council of India and apex Chamber of Commerce & Industry in India viz. CII / FICCI etc.
Key Recommendations that emerged during 3 days International Conference:
1. FSSAI and other countries with strong scientific based knowledge of food safety can collaborate in terms of capacity building and knowledge dissemination related to food safety areas. A phase-wise approach to be followed for implementation of any new regulatory mechanism and achieve
international standards should be followed.
There is a need to develop models for traceability system keeping in view the practical compliance of various food industries. It could be started with a pilot project taking into consideration the diverse conditions of supply chain in India. Capacity building of personnel in supply chain needs to be focussed.
FSSAI should develop mechanisms and guidelines for:
Ø Proprietary Foods and Dietary Supplements: SOPs for bringing and approving new food innovations/innovative products could be prepared. FSSAI could carry out well designed bridging studies, risk assessment based on the data available on proof of concept and history of safe use of such foods.
Ø Mechanism and guidelines for regulating Food Advertisements and claims and having risk assessment committee to examine the food claims.
Ø Consumer friendly labelling regulations like use of regional languages and pictures: this would help in regulating food safety in India.
Ø Implementable strategy and uniform standards for street food vending keeping in view consumers’ expectations from street food vendors, Capacity building programme for street food vendors through regular trainings. FSSAI may consider a workshop focusing on street vendors, and then understanding their problems and developing a suitable strategy (awareness, financial support etc.). Code of practice for safety of street foods developed by NIN and Uniform Street Food Policy by US can be referred to.
Ø Food Surveillance: Concept of Mobile units for Food Safety as followed by Thailand can be referred to.
Ø Unpacked food. MRLs could be decided based on the eating habits, cultural and regional factors in the country and matter need to be taken to Codex.
Ø While developing standards in the areas where we do not have our own standards, FSSAI should customize International Best practices keeping in view the practical feasibility in India. Food Safety Regulations could be prepared with well defined Principles of Food Science. Also, Principles for Food Control System i.e. whole chain approach can be followed.
Ø Active participation in Codex activities to ensure the implementation of consensus arrived at global level to avoid trade barriers.
2. In order to regulate food safety in India, there is a need to create awareness about food safety at all levels in the society. Various Trainings and Capacity Building Programmes could be started:
Ø Consumers’ awareness campaigns could be run and effective modules for awareness campaign based on suggested mode to reach grass root level could be prepared. Possible ideas about creating awareness among consumers like E-Chaupals Concept, dedicated channel on food safety, involvement of youth/ housewives, television media could be referred to.
Ø Effective Communication system particularly with consumers (through consumer hotline/helpline/CCPs) could be helpful.
Ø Curriculum development for educating SMEs and Food safety regulatory staff to be initiated while identifying core areas for competency development.
Ø Carefully developing the food safety plan through stakeholders’ consultation and capacity building of all stakeholders to run this community driven programme.
3. Developing of National Reference Documents by FSSAI on the subjects related to food where there is situation of confusion, which could serve as guidance to the industry. This could also help in adoption of global standards and best practices in supply chain.
4. FSSAI may carry out special vigilance during festive occasions like Diwali, Ganesh Pooja etc.
5. Simplified sampling procedures, approval and identification of the labs based on their analytical functioning could also help in regulating food safety in India.
6. Quick repeal of Acts/Orders and Implementation of new Act on priority basis. Phase-wise, sectors-wise and Industry level based approach need to be adopted for successful implementation of new regulatory mechanisms.
7. Crisis related to food safety could be addressed immediately by FSSAI. Such issues may not wait for the reports from scientific panels and sufficient science is already available to back up the quick decisions on these aspects.
8. Harmonized Inspection Documentation System to be established throughout the country.
9. Learning from Success Stories and International Best Practices to be taken into consideration in the process of developing Regulatory Mechanisms for Indian conditions.