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FSSAI’s Transformation From Passive Prevention To Proactive Wellness – First Ever World Food Safety Day
India is going to celebrate the First World Food Safety Day on the 7th of June 2019. It is indeed a paradigm shift in how we approach the subject of food today in our country. Gone are the days of disjointed Acts and Laws since Independence and a move towards an organic holistic outlook on a critical commodity like food in this vast country of a billion plus souls.
Transformation of Food Laws from 1947 – 2019
Post – independence, we had the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) 1954 and as the name suggests the Act had a very insular view. Gradually, newer Acts were introduced like The Fruit Products Order, 1955 or The Meat Products Order 1973 and various other acts to govern food items like flour, oil and milk etc. The objective of all these Acts were to ensure specific compliance for businesses and to prevent the occurrence of events like death or mass illness on consumption.
Since the 1990s, there has been an astounding growth of information and technology, and emergence of a globalized economy with rapid trade through export and import of items including food.
The liberalization, privatization and globalization in many nations has given rise to MNCs who had started investing and setting up local businesses in India. The complexity and plethora of food-related laws in our country gave ample opportunities for the companies to seek loopholes and compromised the health of Indians.
These environmental changes provoked the Government to harmonize 8 food – related Acts into a unified Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006[i] that is relevant in this globalized world.
On 5th May, 2011, The Food Safety and Standards Rule[ii] was passed by the President of India and the autonomous body called Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) was instituted to promote public health through food safety.
This marks the groundbreaking shift in India’s approach towards food which is an indispensable element of leading a healthy and productive life.
Outlook of FSSAI
The focus on food safety rather than mere prevention of food adulteration is aimed to improve the wellbeing of Indians and reap the benefits of the rich demographic dividends.
Good health has many benefits not only for the individual but for the family and the nation. Healthy people are more productive, take lesser sick days from work and benefit the company where they are employed.
How does it benefit the nation?
If people are healthy and work regularly, private companies or public institutions operate at full capacity and produce more. There are less cases of hazards and risks are lower. The businesses become competitive and it has direct impact on the GDP.
Fewer sick people means less financial burden on the immediate families to provide healthcare and better standard of living.
How is FSSAI implementing #EatRightIndia?
FSSAI is overseeing not only the adulteration of food aspect but the entire spectrum of the business of food. The fundamental emphasis is on food commodities like fruits, vegetables, meat, cereals and pulses, dairy products, fish, poultry, sweets, confectionary, sweeteners to water and other beverages and are being monitored with the purpose of ensuring safe production, delivery at the retail level by the food business operators.
The term “food” itself has a vast definition in section 3.j. of Chapter I in the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006[iii]. The definition includes genetically altered food and such food as ingredients..
But the quest to enable #EatRightIndia does not end here. FSSAI today also monitors and analyzes the nature and type of food additives, flavorings, processing aids and even materials that come in contact with food (like the golden wrapper of a Cadbury’s chocolate). The food exported to other countries or the new – age organic food grown through “safe” means too are inspected and tested through NABL-accredited labs[iv] by trained and experienced food analysts.
The use of nutraceuticals which can be bought over the counter needs monitoring to ensure that there are no contaminants and the products have adequate labeling to inform users about the ingredients (for instance: to prevent allergic reaction) and to instruct about safe method of usage. This is to increase awareness in consumers and protect their interest.
One of the biggest risks to health from food is biological hazards or possibility of contamination while production of raw material, preparation of the finished products and during storage. Sampling, testing and analyzing food and related products through a well-defined protocol of standardized tests and periodicity under the aegis of FSSAI has ensured India moves towards #SwasthBharat.
But it is the focus on food fortification[v] to make up for nutritional needs of Indians is a revolutionary and future – oriented approach of FSSAI which truly embodies the spirit of #EatRightIndia. Fortifying wheat or rice with Vitamin B12, Iron, Folic Acid and milk and oil with Vitamin A and D make up for significant nutrient needs of a vast majority of Indians.
Increasing Awareness, Fortifying Indians
FSSAI monitors and regulates large part of the food industry and businesses to ensure that the health of Indians is protected and their well-being upheld. However, the last mile connectivity of implementing the #EatRightIndia effort lies with us as individuals. With the best of the efforts, if we do not practice food safety at home, we will still end up falling sick.
A commendable & empowering step in this direction too has been initiated by FSSAI through distribution of the Pink[vi] and the Orange[vii] books for home and the workplace including educational institutions.
These easily downloadable books contain vital information like how to select and purchase food, storage of raw food and cooked food, cooking food and eating healthy, packing food and maintaining health and hygiene at home, schools and the workplace.
Join the #SwasthIndia movement, spread the idea of #EatRightIndia and share the Pink and Orange books with your family, friends and acquaintances.
Thomas Edison rightly said, “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”