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04/01/18: Auditors critical of India’s food safety agency

AmapofIndia_406x250 report to the Parliament in New Delhi by India’s Comptroller and Auditor General is highly critical of the nation’s Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Parliament tabled the report on Dec. 19, and now FSSAI is fighting back with a response that insists India’s citizens “can trust the food they get.”

The CAG report says the nation’s food testing labs are shoddy, there are not standards of regulating some food products, the infrastructure for collecting samples is poor, licenses and clearances are often allowed to lapse, and FSSAI suffers from financial lapses as well.

Areas addressed by the audit — lack of equipment, workforce shortages and accreditation for state food laboratories — are getting attention, the agency’s response says. It says 300 staffers went through training in Good Food Lab Practices during the past year.

The federal food safety organization is also supporting 23 labs in 22 states with upgrades. Meanwhile, the number of “notified private labs” has reached 152, up from 82. FSSAI also has 62 mobile food testing laboratories and has made 19 available to the states.

The food safety agency said it “appreciates the inputs from CAG to improve the performance of food safety,” but those observations must be “seen in the context of the huge and complex task at hand…”

It also FSSAI is “an evolving organization, and it faces severe constraints of manpower and resources.”

“It would have been useful if the report had noted a lot of very useful work done by FSSAI over the years that helped raise the profile of food safety significantly in recent works,” the agency added.

Food safety is no small task in India. The subcontinent nation has more than 1.3 billion citizens spread across 29 states and seven territories. FSSAI has also launched a Food Regulatory Portal, known as “One Nation One Food Law.”

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