Saturday, October 26, 2013

Food Safety Act: 107 prosecution cases in Punjab, no conviction

A total of 107 cases have been registered under the Food Safety Act, 2006, in Punjab in the past two years, but the prosecution proceedings are moving at a snail's pace, and that too in the absence of any FIR (first information report).
Even if a sample test reveals that the 'varak' (foil) on a piece of 'barfi' is made of low-purity aluminum rather than high-purity silver, the culprit for such hazardous adulteration can continue in the food business, besides buying time to challenge the authorities concerned.
Besides the use of hazardous chemicals in sweets and other food items, the cases are also related to the manufacture or supply of synthetic milk and adulterated edible oil or ghee.
The fate of such sampling and testing cases has not changed much after the implementation of the Act, as the accused continue in the food business despite the prosecution proceedings underway against them.
The legislation, which has no provision for immediate cancellation of the licence after the sample failure, was partially adopted in the state in August 2011, when the government initiated the process of mandatory registration of all those in the food trade, right from hawkers to owners of hotels and restaurants.
Of the 107 prosecution cases sanctioned for the courts of local subdivisional magistrates (SDMs) across the state, 33 are in Amritsar, 17 in Ludhiana, 11 each in Patiala and Mansa, eight in Gurdaspur, seven in Tarn Taran, four each in Rupnagar, Sangrur and Jalandhar, three each in Ferozepur and Muktsar, and one each in Bathinda and Moga.
Licences of none of these 107 accused parties have been cancelled so far, a senior official in the Punjab directorate of health here confirmed on the condition of anonymity.
"There is no such provision (to cancel the licence) in the Act before the conviction (in court)," he pointed out.
These cases have been bracketed as fit for judicial prosecution out of the 2,700 food samples that have failed adulteration norms tests since August 2011.
The remaining 2,593 cases were labelled as "substandard" and sent to the respective adjudicating officers in the districts concerned for the imposition of penalties.
There is, however, no fixed amount of the penalty to be imposed on the violators. Thus, it is up to the officers concerned to decide the amount.
Talking to HT on the phone, Bathinda district's adjudicating officer Rajiv Prashar said he had announced penalties ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 25,000 in cases such as 'substandard' edible oil or 'khoya' with low fat content.
Significantly, all cases in which the food samples fail tests to the extent of being hazardous to health or unsafe for human consumption are sent to the state's commissioner for food.
The nodal officer concerned, Husan Lal, managing director, Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC), told HT that the state government was upgrading its sole testing laboratory in Sector 11, Chandigarh.
A couple of assistant analysts are undergoing advanced training so that the lab meets the standards of the four labs enlisted in the Act. These labs, certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), are located in Kolkata, Ghaziabad, Mysore and Pune.

The Punjab health authorities acknowledged that samples from the state were also being sent to labs in Kolkata and Ghaziabad, whenever required.

Test reports in 14 days
Under the Food Safety Act, samples are to be sent for testing in labs within 48 hours, and the test reports must reach food safety inspectors concerned in districts within 14 days. Under the Act, adjudicating officers have to pronounce the penalty to be imposed on the violators within three months.

Friday, October 25, 2013

FSSAI sets Feb 4, 2014, as final deadline for registration & licensing

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has set the final deadline as February 4, 2014, for the food business operators to register and obtain licenses under Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011. There will be no further extension to FBOs operating in the country to comply with the rules. “The advisory regarding extension till Feb 4 next year is now being legalised. The FBOs, new and old, have to get licence and register by Feb 4, 2014, otherwise they would get penalised,” said P Karthikeyan, assistant director, FSSAI. He said that there shall be no extension as much time had been given to the FBOs to either obtain licence or register themselves. The first deadline was August 4, 2012, that is one year after the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing & Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011. This was extended by six months to Feb 4, 2013, and then again extended further to Feb 4, 2014.  According to the new draft under the Sub-Regulations of 2.1.2 related to licence for food business, it proposes two changes in Clause I wherein the term “within one year” in first proviso, is changed with “thirty months” and in second proviso the word “otherwise” is changed with “the new FBOs who started food business after 5th August 2011.” The present regulations under 2.1.2 were as follows; no person shall commence any food business unless he possesses a valid licence -Provided that any person or Food Business Operator carrying on food business on the date of notification of these regulations, under a licence, registration or permission, as the case may be, under the Acts or Orders mentioned in the Second Schedule of the Act shall get their existing licence converted into the licence/registration under these regulations by making an application to the Licensing/Registering Authority after complying with the safety requirements mentioned in the Schedule 4 contained under different parts dependent on nature of business, “within one year” of notification of these regulations. In case of difficulty, the licensing authority with the approval of the food safety commissioner in the state will determine the advisability of applying any specific condition keeping in view the need to ensure safety of food and public interest. No licence fee will have to be paid for the remaining period of the validity of the earlier licence or registration granted under any of the said Acts or Orders.Non-compliance with this provision by a Food Business Operator will attract penalty under Section 55 of the Act.The second part of the Clause I says -Provided further that any food business operator holding Registration/License under any other Act/Order as specified under Schedule 2 of the FSS Act, 2006, with no specific validity or expiry date, and “otherwise” entitled to obtain a licence under these regulations, shall have to apply and obtain a Registration/Licence under these regulations “within one year” from the date of notification by paying the applicable fees. Further the regulations also propose to omit Clause 4 that defines the late fees for delay in applying for renewal under Sections 2.1.7 of the regulations, which defines Validity and Renewal of Registration and License. That means no late fees of Rs 100 each day after delay, if any FBO does not applied within 30 days before the expiry date.When contacted K G Burman, food safety commissioner, Delhi, said that FSSAI on its part did come up with the regulations as and when required.
He stated, “The FBOs however needs to get licence and registrations well within the stipulated time.” 

E.coli contamination in food

Chicken biryani is one of those ubiquitous dishes immensely liked by most. The possibility of faecal contamination — human or animal — in your favourite lunch order certainly cannot be a relishable thought.It thus comes as a shocker that five out of six samples of chicken biryani, collected from across the State and tested by the Food Quality Monitoring Laboratory at Konni, have been found to be contaminated by high levels of E.coli bacteria.The presence of E.coli in food is a general indication of direct or indirect contamination by faecal matter and a sure-fire indication of the poor hygiene practices of food handlers.The results of the evaluation of microbial quality of various ready-to-eat foods in Kerala, done by the Konni-based Food Quality Monitoring Lab, was presented at a seminar on Safe Food Business Practices, organised by the Commissionerate of Food Safety here on recently.The study, carried out between September 2011 and May 2013, evaluated the microbial load in 44 ready-to-eat food items from various food business operators across the State.Of the 134 samples of food items analysed, 22.38 per cent (30 samples) were found to have the presence of E.coli bacteria above the tolerance limit.
E.coli is an organism which is normally present in the intestinal tract of mammals and is thus a faecal indicator organism. Its presence in ready-to-eat foods – fully cooked or raw edible foods like salads – is an indication of poor hygiene and sanitation or inadequate heat treatment.The tolerance limit for E.coli is less than 100 cfu/g for raw food and less than 10 cfu/g for cooked food.Some of the popular food items tested by the lab included green salads (all samples of which were contaminated by E.coli), fish curry, chicken curry, parotta, puffs, pizza, vada, dosa, sambar, chutney, among many other such items.
The samples were purchased from hotels across Kerala, in packets provided by eateries, which were immediately transferred to sterile polythene bags and to insulated chilled boxes and transferred to lab immediately.The researchers have pointed out that poor sanitation is largely responsible for much of the contamination in food from food handlers.The levels of hygiene and sanitation inside hotel kitchens is of prime importance because the presence of a toilet near the hotel kitchen poses a serious risk of E.coli contamination in food preparation.Food handlers need to be made aware of the importance of maintaining personal hygiene as well as hygienic habits. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SC directs FSSAI to conduct periodic checks of soft drinks

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the government to conduct periodic checks of soft drinks manufacturing units.
A Bench of Justices KS Radhakrishnan and AK Sikri asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to rigorously monitor manufacturing of soft drinks, saying the issue pertained to citizens' fundamental right to life.
The court, however, refused to issue directions to cola makers to list their ingredients on labels, a demand raised in a PIL by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.
The 2004 petition also asked for the setting up of a seperate committee to evaluate the alleged harmful effects of soft drinks.
The plea had alleged that the ingredients of carbonated drinks have "serious deleterious effects on human health" and no action has been taken to test and assess the risk posed by such beverages.
Soft drink major Pepsi had opposed the PIL, saying the Food Safety and Standards Act, which laid down regulations and standards for beverages, was sufficient and no further guidelines were required.
In 2011, the court asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to constitute independent scientific panels to look into the ingredients. The panel concluded the ingredients, under prescribed limits, posed no health hazards. The Indian Council of Medical Research reached the same conclusion.
Taking note of the experts' opinion and the new Act, the court deemed it appropriate to dispose of the PIL, but directed the FSAAI to ensure stringent implementation of the provisions in the law in public interest.


FSSR amendment on ice cream: Industry hit by frozen dessert by 5-10 pc

The ice cream industry already hit by eroding market share following the emergence of frozen desserts sector in the country during the last few years, is facing another major setback in recent times following an amendment to the Food Safety & Standards Regulations, 2011.
The amendment, introduced about two months ago, allows manufacturers of frozen desserts to mention “vegetable-based or non-dairy-based ice cream” on the packs thus blurring the fine line between ice cream and its similar but cheaper counterpart frozen dessert as far as labelling is concerned.
Suleman Hafizi, chairman, Pastonji Brands and Holdings Pvt. Ltd, observed, “ As the amendment requiring the frozen dessert manufacturers to mention vegetable oil-based ice cream or non-dairy-based ice cream, the manufacturers are following that rule. But in the process we the manufacturers of ice cream are losing business. Our company has incurred a loss of Rs 50 lakh in comparison with previous year due to more sale of frozen desserts.” Another source from the company stated that the impact of the recent amendment on the ice cream industry comes to 5-10 per cent.
Meanwhile, Rajesh Gandhi, managing director, Vadilal Industries Ltd, felt that the frozen desserts industry had impacted the ice cream industry by at least 30 per cent. “While there are no official estimates of the volumes of the two sectors, I think both are roughly the same size.”
However, he did not see any direct impact from the amendment. Gandhi stated, “Frozen desserts are in the country for the last 20 years, but the definition came two years back and the amendment was brought in force by FSSAI two months back.”
He explained, “The amendment states that frozen dessert manufacturers can mention on the packs that it is vegetable-based or non-dairy based ice cream. But milk is used in both the products. There is no impact on the ice cream industry after the amendment because the consumers who do not compromise on the price would go for ice cream and the consumers who look for affordability in prices would choose frozen desserts.”
R S Sodhi, managing director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), had a slightly different take, “They don't check the product's nutritious value. They just go for it because it is cheaper than ice cream. Frozen dessert has impacted the ice cream industry, but Amul is a big player in the ice cream sector, and has, therefore, not faced the heat.”
“The companies which are just focussing on frozen desserts are misguiding the consumers by calling it ice cream,” he felt.
While ice cream is made from milk fat, frozen dessert is made from vegetable oil fat and prior to the amendment, manufacturers of frozen desserts could not use the word ice cream but had to do by mentioning just “frozen dessert” and also needed to state that the product was made from “vegetable oils” somewhere on the pack.
Traditionally, the contention has been that though frozen desserts look and taste similar to ice creams, they have an advantage over the latter as they are cheaper and the buyer is not aware of the difference between the two.
Interestingly, even as the debate over impact of frozen dessert industry over ice cream sector continues, a report by Euromonitor International points out that in the five years ended December 31, 2012, Amul's share of India's frozen treats fell to 31 per cent from 35 per cent, while Unilever's rose to 21 per cent from 17 per cent.
“Unless there is greater awareness among consumers that frozen desserts do not contain milk fats, Unilever will continue to grow,” the report stated.
“The sales of all frozen treats more than doubled in India between 2007 and 2012, and are likely to do so again in the five years ending in 2017, reaching Rs 68.6 billion,” the report concluded.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rats Found In Red Chilly Packet

ഭക്ഷ്യവസ്തുക്കളിലെ മായംചേര്‍ക്കല്‍; ഭക്ഷ്യ സുരക്ഷാ നിയമം കടലാസില്‍ മാത്രം

വടകര: ഭക്ഷ്യസുരക്ഷാനിയമം വന്നിട്ടും പച്ചക്കറികള്‍, മത്സ്യം, മാംസം തുടങ്ങിയവയില്‍ മായം ചേര്‍ക്കുന്നതും രാസവസ്തുക്കള്‍ കലര്‍ത്തുന്നതുമായ പരാതികള്‍ വര്‍ധിക്കുന്നു. ആവശ്യത്തിന് ജീവനക്കാരും നിലവാരമുള്ള ലാബുകളും ഇല്ലാത്തതാണ് നിയമം നടപ്പാക്കാന്‍ തടസ്സമാകുന്നത്.
ഭക്ഷ്യവസ്തുക്കളുടെ ഉത്പാദനത്തിലും വിതരണത്തിലും അന്താരാഷ്ട്ര നിലവാരം പുലര്‍ത്താനുദ്ദേശിച്ചാണ് ഭക്ഷ്യസുരക്ഷാ ഗുണനിലവാര നിയമമുണ്ടാക്കിയത്.
മുമ്പ് നിലവിലുണ്ടായിരുന്ന എല്ലാ നിയമങ്ങളും ഉത്തരവുകളും ഏകോപിപ്പിച്ചാണ് പുതിയ നിയമം നിലവില്‍ വന്നത്. ശാസ്ത്രീയമായ ഗുണനിലവാര മാനദണ്ഡങ്ങള്‍ നടപ്പില്‍ വരുത്തുക ഇതിന്റെ പ്രധാന ലക്ഷ്യമായിരുന്നു. ഫുഡ് സേഫ്റ്റി സ്റ്റാന്‍ഡേര്‍ഡ്‌സ് അതോറിറ്റി ഓഫ് ഇന്ത്യയുടെ മാതൃകയില്‍ സംസ്ഥാന തലത്തിലും അതോറിറ്റിയും രൂപവത്കരിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.
ജില്ലാ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തില്‍ ആധുനിക സൗകര്യങ്ങളുള്ള പരിശോധാ ലാബുകള്‍ സ്ഥാപിക്കാതെ നിയമം പ്രാവര്‍ത്തികമാക്കാന്‍ പറ്റില്ലെന്നാണ് ബന്ധപ്പെട്ടവര്‍ പറയുന്നത്.
ഫുഡ്‌സേഫ്റ്റി ഓഫീസര്‍മാര്‍ എന്ന് പുനര്‍ നാമകരണം ചെയ്ത ഫുഡ് ഇന്‍സ്‌പെക്ടര്‍മാര്‍ ഭക്ഷ്യവിഷബാധയോ മറ്റോ ഉണ്ടാകുമ്പോള്‍ മാത്രമാണ് രംഗത്ത് വരുന്നത്. പ്രാഥമിക ആരോഗ്യ കേന്ദ്രങ്ങളുടെയും ആസ്​പത്രികളുടെയും കീഴില്‍ പ്രവര്‍ത്തിക്കുന്ന ഹെല്‍ത്ത് ഇന്‍സ്‌പെക്ടര്‍മാര്‍ വിപണിയില്‍ നിന്ന് പഴകിയ ഭക്ഷ്യ വസ്തുക്കളും മറ്റും പിടിച്ചെടുത്ത് നശിപ്പിക്കുന്നുണ്ടെങ്കിലും ശാസ്ത്രീയമായ പരിശോധനകള്‍ നടത്താത്തതിനാല്‍ കുറ്റക്കാരെ ശിക്ഷിക്കാന്‍ കഴിയുന്നില്ല. നിസ്സാരപിഴ വസൂലാക്കി കുറ്റക്കാരെ വിട്ടയയ്ക്കുകയാണ്.
കോഴിക്കോട്ടെ പബ്ലിക് ഹെല്‍ത്ത് ലബോറട്ടറിയില്‍ പൊതുജനങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് സാംപിള്‍ കൊടുക്കണമെങ്കില്‍ ഒരുമാസം മുമ്പേ അപേക്ഷിക്കണം. ജീവനക്കാരുടെയും പരിശോധനാ ഉപകരണങ്ങളുടെയും കുറവ് ലബോറട്ടറികളുടെ പ്രവര്‍ത്തനത്തെ ബാധിക്കുന്നു.
സംസ്ഥാന ഫുഡ് സേഫ്റ്റി കമ്മീഷണറുടെ വെബ് സൈറ്റില്‍ ഇത്തരം കാര്യങ്ങളെക്കുറിച്ച് വളരെ പരിമിതമായ വിവരങ്ങളേയുള്ളൂ. സാംപിള്‍ ശേഖരിക്കല്‍, പരിശോധനാഫലങ്ങള്‍ തുടങ്ങിയവയെപ്പറ്റി വെബ്‌സൈറ്റില്‍ പേജുകള്‍ ഉണ്ടെങ്കിലും പ്രസക്തമായ വിവരങ്ങളൊന്നുമില്ല. ജീവനക്കാരുടെ സ്ഥാനക്കയറ്റം സംബന്ധിച്ച വിവരങ്ങളാണ് ഏറെയും.

Live rat pups in dry chilli packet

Live rat pups have been found in a sealed packet of dry chillies a man bought from a supermarket at Pallimukku in the city.
Packed and sealed:The chilli packet with the rat pups.The man, who claimed buying it on Thursday, found the pups on Friday when he heard squeaks from inside the packet.
Following a written complaint from him, the Chief Food Safety Officer at Kollam, A.K. Mini, has written to the State Food Safety Commissioner seeking permission to initiate prosecution proceedings against the supermarket authorities. Ms. Mini has also ordered the closure of the super market’s packing centre following an inspection there.
The customer says the packet has not been opened and has been handed over to the Food Safety authorities. The pups can be seen through the plastic packet. But the supermarket authorities say that the claim of the man is hard to believe.
The label on the packet shows that it was packed on October 15. The man had purchased it on October 17 and noticed the pups on October 18. The supermarket authorities say it is simply not possible for the pups to be alive in an airtight packet for four days and that too without being fed.
They allege mischief behind it. The supermarket with several branches is the one that had earned a reputation in the city over the years, they add.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Food safety training for noon meal, Anganwadi staff

Tamil Nadu Food Safety Commissioner Kumar Jayanth on Tuesday ordered the Designated Officers (DOs) of Food Safety Wing to train the staff at noon meal and Anganwadi centres across the State in safe and hygienic cooking practices.
In a video-conference, he instructed the DOs of all 32 districts to provide training on handling different types of food materials, safe cooking practices and maintaining hygienic conditions, an official who participated told The Hindu on Wednesday.
The noon meal scheme at schools was a State Government project. Anganwadi centres are run by Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), a Central Government-sponsored social welfare scheme to tackle malnutrition and health problems in children and their mothers.
Apart from cooking, emphasis will also be placed on storage of different food materials. The objective was to bring in more professionalism in the process within the resources available to the staff, the official said.
The training will be conducted at the block-level, where the Block Development Officer will coordinate the effort with the DOs. Training for the first batch was likely to commence in a week’s time. The Food Safety Commissioner has written to all the district administrations seeking their cooperation.
Even though nearly three months have elapsed since the Food Safety Commissioner directed all DOs to test samples from noon meal and Anganwadi centres, no sample had been taken in Coimbatore so far, sources said.
Mr. Jayanth had issued a circular on July 19 in the wake of more than 20 children dying after taking the mid-day meal at a school in Bihar on July 16. It was found that food was contaminated as a result of the cooking oil having been placed in a container formerly used to store pesticides. While initially the process was held-up in Coimbatore due to the microbiologist post at the Government Food Analysis Laboratory here lying vacant, it was yet to take off even though the post was filled, a few weeks ago. The process of lifting samples and testing them was likely to be taken up after the training programme for the cooks conclude, an official said.
Coimbatore had one of the six Government food analysis laboratories in Tamil Nadu that are approved under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. The others are in Chennai, Salem, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Madurai.