Health & Lifestyle

Food Safety : Time to Act against Alarming Contamination

Food Safety culture is a new concept in India, with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) being established in 2006, for food and beverage manufacturing, storage, distribution and compliance with the minimum standards Unfortunately, India faces many problems in this sphere, such as:

  • Low awareness of food safety needs-  Till date majority are unaware about food hygiene practices. Behind every cheap and tasty food there could be a hidden disease, hits people much late.
  • Quality of Preservatives Used- Colouring agents and preservatives used in most of the cases are sub-standard or injurious for human consumption which are not verifiable at the consumption point.
  • Limited infrastructure- Food manufacturing and processing organisations often do not have the resources to maintain proper hygiene, leading to contamination and outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.  In India alone, there are  more than  100 million foodborne diseases every year, resulting in an average of 120,000 deaths.  Infrastructural gaps make hazard management difficult too, as we keep hearing about food triggered mini epidemics. The cost of illnesses is over $15 billion.
  • Intentional food adulteration- From 15% in 2012, it has become an average of 22% food adulterated annually , on purpose, to increase profit. This can be checked only by stringent audit by FSSAI, but still some may miss the net, India being such a huge country. We are hopeful, that a step up in audit may bring down the percentage.
  • No supplier control and traceability- For many companies, tracing ingredients is impossible — especially that of raw agricultural and other perishable commodities. Very few pack with due safety and keep track of movement along the supply chain. As a result it may be sometimes risky to cook matters which have travelled a distance and only local purchase is safe. Traceability is especially difficult for SME businesses, but no excuse would be acceptable in the journey for Viksit Bharat 2047 .

All these problems are more visible in the unorganized sector, than the organized one. However, this year  we have got shocking news in the organised sector and from branded goods . People uncovered horrifying foreign objects in their online-ordered packaged foods-  dead rats in chocolate syrup bottles,  frogs lurking in wafer packets, centipedes and human finger in ice creams, elevated levels of ethylene oxide in spices, these disgusting findings have made people furious and show  huge lapses in food safety and quality control. FSSAI says there are stringent checks, yet such gaps raise concerns  about the integrity of the food supply chain. Unfortunately this problem is a global one . And to minimize the damage , Food Businesses have to carry out Supplier Audits on a continuous basis. There can be no compromises, as there would be penalty and prosecution if unsafe food affects the life of the average Indian.  But maybe we can become more productive by teaching children in schools and colleges to boycott food which looks unhygienic , however attractive it may be in terms of price or taste. What else do you suggest in making our food safe?

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