Counteracting its own set of rules and due to falling short on man power, FSSAI has turned its Custom Officials into ‘Authorized Officials’ instead of hiring the needed Food Safety Officials and qualified, trained experts. These ‘Authorized Officials’ are now responsible for the safety of the food imported across 125 points in India. A move to ease the food business, Government has changed its course in its way of solution.
This all started back in March 2016, when custom personnel where assigned the duty of Food safety as well. Now, apart from handling the custom-related duties, they are now in-charge of supervising, sending the samples to the labs, getting the reports and approving the imported products against the set parameters and accepted ingredients.
Handling such pivotal duty by customs may not be the best option after all. Mr Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs puts forth his opinion.
Since FSSAI is running low on staffs, reaching out to other government organisations for ensuring food safety is natural. However, going to the custom officers may not be the best policy as they may not be fully aware about the food safety norms. There are multiple other agencies in the country – both public and private – who can do probably do help as well.
This addition in job description has contradicted the law passed by FSSAI this January, under which, Food Authority mandated that the technical qualifications and training of those posted at customs to check safety of imported goods should match that of a ‘Food Safety Officer’ as prescribed by law.
When questioned why such change came into effect and why weren’t technically trained people, holding degrees in Food Technology, Dairy Technology, Biotechnology, etc hired, FSSAI came up with a reply stating that large amount of time goes into hiring and training the people. Until then, the import at various docks cannot be called off or halted. This lead to such a decision.
Many questions are raised in this turn of events. Where do we now stand in terms of Food Safety? Will this affect the quality of food imported in the country? With International markets stationing dedicated Food Safety Officials at the port unlike this, what remains of Safe Food should be watched out for.