Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bid to Strengthen CFS; Study Report to List Proposals

KOLLAM: In a bid to convert the Commissionerate of Food Safety (CFS) into a fully functional one, a work study report is in the offing which is expected to list the troubles faced by the body. The report is being prepared by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
A DoPT official, on conditions of anonymity, told Express that the report was being prepared by analysing the current structure of the Commissionerate and would make recommendations to be considered by the officials concerned  for strengthening the same. “The report would list proposals to reduce work overload and suggestions for changing the existing regional setup.
The report is being prepared with inputs from the Commissionerate of Food Safety,” the DoPT official said.
He said that the report was expected to be completed by this month. Commissioner of Food Safety T V Anupama said that the report was expected to cover the problems faced by the Commissionerate and would help in converting it into a fully functional one. “From the Commissionerate, we have given two important suggestions.
One is for the creation of a Joint Commissioner post and other about defining the connection between food safety enforcement and labs,” Anupama said.
A Department of Personnel and Training official said that the proposal for new posts would be determined by the Department of Finance and also added that once the report was completed, it would be sent to the Department of Finance, Department of Health and to the Commissionerate of Food Safety.
The report has a crucial role as the Commissionerate of Food Safety has been facing some hurdles in carrying out its duty.
Inadequate staff, absence of Food Safety Appellate Tribunal, special courts and accredited labs in the state had been proving to be the major barriers in implementing the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 in letter and spirit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BIS working on standards for edible oil, soon to be ISI-marked product

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is currently working on a set of standards for edible oil, which, as stated by Sunil Soni, its director general, are ready. As soon as the final draft of the standards for the same is released, the certification of the product would begin. “Edible oil would shortly be an ISI-marked product,” he informed.

Soni added, “A meeting with the stakeholders on the transition methods is slated to be held next month. Not only would the regulations and implementation time frame for the same be discussed, but a roadmap (which would be decided by the transition methods) would also be drawn up for the implementation of the edible oil standards.”

At the meeting, the stakeholders would put forth their concerns, because the director general said that BIS wanted a smooth transition. The standards would be applicable to the entire range of packaged edible oil sold at retail outlets across the India.

They would be accepted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which is working on them with BIS. The former would use the standards to ensure food safety.

Soni informed that BIS was in continuous in talks with the country’s apex food regulator, adding that in addition to high-level coordination meetings, they were a part of a working group for oil standards.

It has been done to avoid overlapping and copying of standards by the various agencies working to ensure food safety. In the past, edible oil standards were a part of the AGMARK portfolio. But AGMARK has withdrawn itself from framing standards for manufactured agri products to focus solely on raw products.

BIS has standards ready for street foods and tap water as well. It would write to the Urban Development Department to ask local bodies to ensure the implementation of the standards for the latter. As for the former, each state’s food safety department would be the implementing authority.

However, it has been proposed that the standards, which are fairly high, would be implemented in phases, with levels one, two and so on. 


TDB bid to keep Appam and Aravana safe

Appam and Aravana to be sold from the Sabarimala temple would adhere to food safety measures, including Good Manufacturing Practises (GMP) soon.
Besides putting in place the GMP, it has been proposed to introduce Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points (HACCP) at Sabarimala. The Centre for Food Research and Development (CFRD), Konni, has drawn up food safety plans for the hill shrine, which is visited by thousands of devotees each season.
The effective implementation of the food safety measures would go a long way in eliminating possibilities of food contamination in Appam and Aravana and at Annadanam, free food offered to the devotees.
The food safety systems could be made operational within a fortnight on order from the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), said M.K. Mukundan, CFRD director.
P. Venugopal, TDB Commissioner, conceded that there were complaints of poor quality of Appam and Aravana sold from the temple. It was following these complaints that the board decided to assign the job of ensuring food safety measures to the CFRD. The system would be in place during the forthcoming pilgrim season.
Health card
The CFRD will check the samples of raw materials brought to the temple for preparing the sacred offering. Sanitary surveys would also be carried out. A health card for workers engaged for the preparation of the offerings would be prepared to ensure that the health and hygiene parameters are not compromised. Swabs would be taken from the workers to test them for contagious diseases, Dr. Mukundan said.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ഭക്ഷണത്തെ കുറിച്ച് നമ്മുടെ അറിവില്ലായ്മ ?

Staff shortage smothers food safety act enforcement

Thiruvananthapuram: The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 was introduced by the Union Government in 2011. The Act, aiming to ensure safe and quality food to the people, is still in its infancy with most people remaining unaware of its provisions and safeguards. Although Kerala is much ahead in terms of implementing the Act in comparison with other states the awareness level amongst the large sections of the consumers needed to be improved. Even the government is yet to formulate a fool proof system to enforce the provisions of the Act. Excerpt from an interview with Commissioner of Food Safety Anupama T. V.
How consumer friendly is the rules and regulations linked with FSS Act?
The beneficiaries of food safety and standards act are the consumers and the food business operators. We have set up a mechanism which is easily accessible to common man. A toll free number is there and we are receiving lot many grievance calls relating to stale food and substandard eatables daily. We need to strengthen the department for more effective implementation of the act. Also, most of the people are still in the dark regarding the Act and still search for food inspectors like in old days to register their complaints. We have offices at all 140 constituencies and the consumers could easily drop in their complaints.  It's definitely consumer friendly, since the Act was enforced there has been a seen change in the hotel industry. 
It is said that information about the Act is mainly concentrated in urban areas and the vast majority of the rural habitat are unaware of the provisions of the Act. How the department is planning to tackle this situation?
Creating awareness among the public on the Act is one of the main components and we are giving top priority for that. A major challenge to enforce the Act is the severe shortage of the staff. The staff shortage is a stumbling block for enforcing the act in the state. Currently, our activities are limited in the urban circle because of this shortage. But we are planning to cover more rural constituencies soon. From this month onwards, I have given direction to our squads from each district to cover at least two rural constituencies. Also we have initiated steps to recruit more food safety officers through PSC (public service commission). May be within four to five months we would fill around 75 to 80 vacancies in the department. Right now we are managing with 79 personnel.
How consumer friendly is the toll free number?
We are receiving an average of 40 to 50 calls daily from consumers. But, due to minimal staff strength the department is unable to attend to the calls immediately. But, calls are prioritized based on the severity of the issue. If samples are needed to be collected our squad responds immediately even if its midnight. Once enough staff strength is there we would be able to provide round the clock services to consumers. Very soon we will make available our services 24*7. We are receiving complaints even in our email id.
The modifications if any needed in the Food Safety and Standards Act?
It's a new Act and came as a replacement to an existing system. Certain constraints are there as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is still bringing in revisions to the act. Acts are never fool proof and it has to be revised from time to time. The FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is very quick in bringing in changes to facilitate practical execution of the act. We encounter certain issues while implementing the act. When the issue of antibiotic in chicken came, we had issues as the act doesn't provide any clarity on the amount of allowed antibiotic residues. Currently, efforts are on to bring all food business operators under the Act. There are around one lakh food business operators in the state. However, a majority of them are in the unorganised sector. We are expecting around 40,000 food business operators to avail the license and registration under the food safety act.
Though the act envisages strict action against violators, the Commissionerate of Food Safety here is unable to penalise them. Why there has been less action even after having enough proofs?
NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accredited lab is an obvious requirement for the proper execution of the act. Only samples that are scrutinized aty NABL accredited labs would be legally valid. Unfortunately, we don't have any in the state at present. Currently, we are depending on laboratories in other states.  But efforts are in the final stages to upgrade the existing laboratories at Ernakulam, Trivandrum and Kozhikode with the minimum basic standards to avail the mandatory accreditation. Three consultants have come forward and we will start the works very soon.

ലൈസന്‍സും രജിസ്ട്രേഷനും ഇനിമുതല്‍ ഓണ്‍ലൈന്‍

തിരുവനന്തപുരം: ഭക്ഷ്യസുരക്ഷാ ഗുണനിലവാര നിയമപ്രകാരം എല്ലാ ഭക്ഷ്യ വ്യാപാരികളും എടുക്കേണ്ട ലൈസന്‍സും രജിസ്ട്രേഷനും ഇനിമുതല്‍ ഓണ്‍ലൈനായും അക്ഷയ സെന്‍ററുകളും വഴിയും നല്‍കും. ഈമാസം 17 മുതലാണു സംവിധാനം നിലവില്‍ വരിക. ഇതിന്‍റെ നടപടിക്രമങ്ങള്‍ സംസ്ഥാന സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ പൂര്‍ത്തീകരിച്ചു. ഇതുപ്രകാരം പുതിയ ലൈസന്‍സ്, രജിസ്ട്രേഷന്‍ എടുക്കുന്നതിനും പുതുക്കുന്നതിനും നേരത്തെ എടുത്ത ലൈസന്‍സുകള്‍ ഓണ്‍ലൈനാക്കുന്നതിനും സമീപത്തെ അക്ഷയ സെന്‍ററുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെടാം. പുതിയ അപേക്ഷകള്‍ ഇന്‍റര്‍നെറ്റ് സൗകര്യമുള്ള ഏതു കംപ്യൂട്ടറില്‍ നിന്നും എന്ന അഡ്രസില്‍ ലോഗിന്‍ ചെയ്തു സമര്‍പ്പിക്കാം. 
ഇപ്പോള്‍ ലൈസന്‍സ്, രജിസ്ട്രേഷന്‍ എടുത്തവര്‍ അതിന്‍റെ കാലാവധി കഴിയുന്നതിനു 30 ദിവസം മുമ്പുതന്നെ അക്ഷയ സെന്‍ററുകളുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ടു ലൈസന്‍സ് പുതുക്കണമെന്നു ഫുഡ് സേഫ്റ്റി കമ്മിഷണര്‍ അറിയിച്ചു. അല്ലെങ്കില്‍ 100 രൂപവീതം ഫൈന്‍ നല്‍കേണ്ടി വരും. ലൈസന്‍സ്, രജിസ്ട്രേഷന്‍ അക്ഷയ വഴി നല്‍കുന്നതിന്‍റെ ഉദ്ഘാടനം നാളെ ഭക്ഷ്യദിനത്തോടനുബന്ധിച്ചു കനടക്കുന്നില്‍ നടക്കുന്ന ചടങ്ങില്‍ മന്ത്രി വി.എസ്. ശിവകുമാര്‍ നിര്‍വഹിക്കും. നാളെമുതല്‍ ഫുഡ് സേഫ്റ്റി ഓഫിസുകളില്‍ ലൈസന്‍സ്, രജിസ്ട്രേഷനുകള്‍ക്കുള്ള അപേക്ഷകള്‍ സ്വീകരിക്കില്ലെന്നും ഭക്ഷ്യസുരക്ഷാ കമ്മിഷണര്‍ അറിയിച്ചു.

20 പേരുടെ പണി കറുത്ത ബാഡ്ജു കുത്തി രണ്ടു പേർ ചെയ്താൽ...

തിരുവനന്തപുരം: തപാൽ നോട്ടം മുതൽ  വിവിധ ജില്ലകളിൽ നിന്നുള്ള ഫയൽ തീർപ്പാക്കലടക്കമുള്ള കാര്യങ്ങൾക്ക്  ആകെ രണ്ടു ജീവനക്കാർ. കാലത്തു തുടങ്ങുന്ന ജോലി പലപ്പോഴും രാത്രി  11 വരെ നീളും. സഹികെട്ടതിനാൽ ഇന്നലെ കറുത്ത ബാഡ്ജു ധരിച്ചാണ് ഇരുവരും ജോലിക്കെത്തിയത്. നെഞ്ചത്ത് ബാഡ്ജു കുത്തി രണ്ടു പേർ  പ്രതിഷേധിക്കുന്ന കാര്യം ആരുമൊട്ടറിഞ്ഞുമില്ല.

തൈക്കാട്ട് പ്രവർത്തിക്കുന്ന സംസ്ഥാന ഭക്ഷ്യസുരക്ഷാ കമ്മിഷണറേറ്റ് ഓഫീസിന്റെ സ്ഥിതിയാണിത്. കമ്മിഷണർ, രണ്ടു ജോയിന്റ് കമ്മിഷണർമാർ, രണ്ടു ക്ളാർക്കുമാർ. ഇതാണ് ഓഫീസിലെ അംഗസംഖ്യ. കമ്മിഷണർക്കും ജോയിന്റ് കമ്മിഷണർമാർക്കും ഓഫീസ് ജോലികളുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെടേണ്ട കാര്യമില്ല. ശേഷിക്കുന്ന രണ്ടുപേർ വേണം എല്ലാത്തിനും സമാധാനം പറയാൻ. നിലവിലെ ഘടനയനുസരിച്ച് 20 ജീവനക്കാരെങ്കിലും വേണ്ട ഓഫീസാണിത്.
14 ജില്ലകളിലെയും ഫുഡ് ഇൻസ്പെക്ടർ ഓഫീസുകൾ, താലൂക്ക് തലത്തിലുള്ള പരിശോധനാ ഓഫീസുകൾ, തിരുവനന്തപുരത്തും എറണാകുളത്തും കോഴിക്കോട്ടുമുള്ള അനലിറ്റിക്കൽ ലാബുകൾ, ശബരിമല സീസണിൽ പ്രവർത്തിക്കുന്ന പത്തനംതിട്ടയിലെ പ്രത്യേക അനലിറ്റിക്കൽ ലാബ്  എന്നിവിടങ്ങളിൽ നിന്നുള്ള ഫയലുകൾ നോക്കേണ്ടത്  ഇവിടെയാണ്. വിവരാവകാശ നിയമപ്രകാരമുള്ള കത്തുകളുടെ മറുപടി തയ്യാറാക്കൽ, നിയമസഭയിലെ ചോദ്യങ്ങൾക്കുള്ള മറുപടി തയ്യാറാക്കൽ, ഫണ്ടു വിതരണം, പെൻഷൻകാരുടെ ആനൂകൂല്യ വിതണം, പല സ്ഥലങ്ങളിലെ കേസുകൾ... ജോലികൾ ഇങ്ങനെ നീളുന്നു. ഒരാൾ ലീവെടുത്താൽ അപരന്റെ നടുവൊടിഞ്ഞതു തന്നെ. ഇതറിയാവുന്നതിനാൽ ഇരുവരും ലീവെടുക്കാറുമില്ല.

ആരോഗ്യ വകുപ്പ് ഡയറക്ടറേറ്റിനു കീഴിലായിരുന്നു ഭക്ഷ്യ സുരക്ഷാ കമ്മിഷണറേറ്റും ആദ്യം പ്രവർത്തിച്ചിരുന്നത്. 2009ലാണ് സ്വതന്ത്രചുമതലയുള്ള ഓഫീസാക്കി മാറ്റിയത്. അന്ന് ഇവിടേക്ക് മാറാൻ ആരോഗ്യവകുപ്പ് ജീവനക്കാരോട്  താത്പര്യം ചോദിച്ചിരുന്നു. പലരും സമ്മതമറിയിച്ചെങ്കിലും ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട ഫയലുകൾ പൊടിപിടിച്ച് കിടപ്പാണ്. പുതിയ തസ്തിക ഉണ്ടാക്കുന്നതിന് ചില ചർച്ചകൾ നടന്നെങ്കിലും സർക്കാരിന്റെ സാമ്പത്തിക പരാധീനതയിൽ അതും കുരുങ്ങി.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Health min reviewing FSSR, 2011, with aim of making them accommodating

Three years after the Food Safety and Standards Regulations (FSSR), 2011, came into effect, the health ministry has decided to undertake a comprehensive review of it, in order to make it more accommodating and ensure its implementation without forcing it on anyone.
It decided to do so after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) received a number of complaints regarding its operations; delegations made recommendations to the health ministry, and the courts made a number of observations.
It was also learnt that the ministry planned to repeal the Regulations for a short period, and would represent a new draft in Parliament’s next winter session.
Commenting on the review, health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “Since I took charge of the ministry, we have received several representations and memorandums on the subject of food safety.”
“So we thought of withdrawing it for a short time, and studying the recommendations and the existing legislation in detail. We don’t want to force anything. We are trying to develop a consensus without compromising on the quality,” he added.
“The law must incorporate the practicality of the regulations. India must modify laws according to its needs. It may not be feasible to implement those that have been enforced overseas as they are here,” Dr Vardhan stated.
“The country must also ensure that there is an implementation mechanism, and has to create establishment according, and not permit any compromise on the food standards,” the minister added.
He stated that for 100 days after he assumed office, he met scores of delegations from across India, who voiced their concerns about the implementation of the Regulations. He said, “You can’t rubbish every suggestion that is put across by so many people.”
A senior official in the ministry stated that the ministry was initially planning to amend the Regulations, but had to paid heed to the observations made by the Supreme Court. These included the need to make the punishment more stringent.
“In the light of that, we want to review the entire Regulations, before coming up with the new draft. We must adopt a holistic approach towards food safety,” he added.
Sources said representations were made before the health minister and the prime minister. Some of them also met Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah to voice their concerns regarding the implementation of the Regulations.
It was also learned that the food business operators (FBO) made a detailed point-wise presentation to the health ministry about the Regulations.
Although FSSAI chairman K Chandramouli wasn’t in favour of any review of the Regulations, his views were overruled by the representation by the FBO.
Meanwhile, Dr Vardhan said that there could not be a second opinion on food safety. “This is absolutely needed, and there should be the highest possible standards for the same,” he added.
“Also the food industry needs to survive. That is also vital. But in the name of survival, permitting substandard or unhealthy foods is unacceptable,” the minister said.
“There has to be a balance between providing safe food to the people and ensuring that safety mechanisms are taken care of without any bias and prejudice against anybody,” Dr Vardhan said.
It is pertinent to mention here that the steps taken by FSSAI in recent times have raised eyebrows, particularly as far as the communication gap is concerned.
FBO have always rued that the apex food regulator had not opened a proper communication channel, so their voices were not heard.
Also lately, product approval had become a bone of contention between the food industry and FSSAI. The matter was also raised in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Moreover, a number of litigations were also filed, challenging the way FSSAI conducted its activities, including issuing advisories.