Apex food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has found that 15.8 per cent of 1,06,459 samples tested for quality in 2018-19 were found to be substandard. Another 3.7 per cent were unsafe, while 9 per cent had labelling defects.
The annual enforcement data of state level food regulators, released by FSSAI on November 25, included details of non-conforming samples, cases launched, convictions and penalties by states/UTs during 2018-19 and also trends over the past three years. This is the first year when the data has been compiled separately for unsafe, substandard and labelling defects.
According to the FSSAI, the segregated data is meant to help support food safety authorities to take precise corrective and preventive action. "While, there should be zero tolerance to unsafe food, issue of sub-standard and labelling defects require greater efforts on capacity building of food businesses and food standards as well as labelling requirements," it said.
The report stated that there has been a 7 per cent increase in the number of samples analysed during 2018-19 compared to 2017-18. Similarly, 25 per cent more samples were found non-conforming compared to the previous year, suggesting better targeting of enforcement efforts by states/UTs in the country. The number of civil cases increased by 36 per cent, and there was 67 per cent increase in the number of cases where penalties were imposed. The amount of penalty imposed also increased by 23 per cent during 2018-19 compared to the previous year with the total amount realised as penalty comes to Rs 32.58 crore for the year.
According to the report, the states/UTs that have performed well include Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh. Several poor-performing states such as Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Telangana, and Uttarakhand did not have full-time officers for food safety and proper food testing laboratories despite the food safety law coming into force over a decade ago.
"More rigorous enforcement by states is essential to build public trust in food. FSSAI is working with states and UTs, particularly with weaker ones in this regard. For this, FSSAI is increasing the capacity of state food laboratories and enabling use of private food labs for testing food samples. Enforcement efforts have to better targeted and preceded by surveillance efforts to identify hotspots and problem areas," Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, said.
Food safety issues extend beyond food adulteration. Food borne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group of the World Health Organisation has identified 31 food borne hazards. In its first estimates of the incidence, mortality, and disease burden, this group has found that the global burden of food borne diseases (FBD) is comparable to those of the major infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.