A parliamentary panel has asked food regulator FSSAI to nudge states/UTs for taking corruption and unethical practices in food safety matter seriously as cases of adulteration in food items are rising. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare on Saturday submitted its action taken report related to functioning of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

The panel took note of various measures taken by the FSSAI to prevent unethical practices and hoped that they would be able to contain corrupt practices to some extent. “But since cases of adulteration in food items are on the rise, the Committee feels that there is a need to force some stringent measures in this regard. The committee, therefore, reiterates its recommendations and urges upon FSSAI to nudge the States/UTs to take corruption in food safety matters seriously,” the report said.

The panel also raised apprehension about the food safety monitoring mechanism. “Considering the extent of food adulteration prevalent now-a-days in the country, the number of cancelled licences with state and central is very low and thus genuinely raises apprehension over food safety monitoring mechanism,” the committee said.

The panel said the proposed amendments to Section 42(3) of Food Safety and Standards Act be expedited so that perishable food items with a short span of life are tested before getting spoiled. The Committee took into cognizance the efforts being made like regular surveillance, monitoring, inspection of food premises, sampling of food products, regular training of officers concerned, upgradation of food labs etc. However, the panel asked the FSSAI to take pro-active and concerted efforts to regularly prompt the States/UTs for gearing their machinery to develop a system which has zero tolerance towards violation of any food safety norms by FBOs.

“Timely and appropriate punishment would definitely prove to be a deterrent for the violators of food safety laws and this could be achieved only by increasing the conviction rate. The committee, therefore, reiterates that FSSAI should take up the issue of low conviction rate with the Ministry of Law & Justice to find a solution to the problem as early as possible,” the report said. The panel pointed out that few regulations were yet to be notified.

“The Committee expresses its deep anguish over the lackadaisical approach of FSSAI and recommends to notify the remaining notification at the earliest,” the report said. The panel noted that the Appellate Tribunal has been constituted in 30 States/UTs. It asked the ministry to expedite the process of establishing the appellate tribunal in the remaining states so that the litigation process can be fast tracked.

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