India’s food safety panel chief wants sweeping reforms

Dr Prakash’s call for an overhaul comes after the FSSAI sought the recall of Nestle’s Maggi Noodles in the country following lab tests that showed unsafe levels of lead in some samples.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi | Updated: June 17, 2015 8:09 am
food safety, food regulators, maggi ban, food safety test, food adulteration, government food labs, food labs, food test laboratories, FDA, indian express news, india news, nation news Dr Prakash said there was also a pressing need for the NABL system to have a separate slot for food testing laboratories instead of them being clubbed under chemical laboratories.

India’s food safety apparatus needs sweeping reforms to ensure that its norms are on par with international standards, including an accreditation system that not only screens labs but also its personnel on a regular basis, according to the head of a key panel of India’s national food safety authority.

”It is time we wake up and work on a science-based approach and move forward rapidly,” Dr V Prakash, who chairs the scientific panel of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on nutritional foods and dietary supplements, told The Indian Express.

“If we have periodical evaluation in aviation for pilots, why not for analysts who test our food?” asked the former director of the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI).

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“If the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) sets guidelines, all airports and flights have to follow them — it should be the same for food analysis laboratories,” he added.

Dr Prakash’s call for an overhaul comes after the FSSAI sought the recall of Nestle’s Maggi Noodles in the country following lab tests that showed unsafe levels of lead in some samples.

On June 10, The Indian Express reported that some products from top brands such as Tata Starbucks, Kellogg’s and Venky’s figured on a list of around 500 rejected items that the FSSAI had handed over to state-level officials. Tata Starbucks on Monday said it was pulling out the ingredients on that list from its outlets.

Dr Prakash has also called for more scientists to be involved in the regulatory system, as is the case in other countries such as the US. ”The system should be run by scientists with bureaucratic support and not the other way round,” he said.

”The top regulatory body FSSAI does not have many scientists on its permanent staff. Where are the scientists in our food regulation system and what is the role of the few that are there? Ideally, scientists should be involved in monitoring at every stage, including sampling protocols, setting standards, and testing and simulation,” the senior scientist said.

Seeking an overhaul of state and central labs, Dr Prakash said reforms should cover testing standards, training of analysts, infrastructure, role of scientists in regulation, and the frequency of monitoring.

“India should not dilute the standards because many of our laboratories may not have advanced facilities for scientific analysis. We should be at par with international standards such as Codex,” said Dr Prakash, who headed the committee that standardised testing standards at the micro-level (parts per billion) for packaged water in 2008.

With no set standards in India for testing many types of food, including instant noodles and processed cheese items, Dr Prakash said: “Standards for different kind of pathogens, including chemicals, microbial toxins, heavy metals, residues of pesticides and herbicides and fungicides, need to be set, keeping in view the average daily intake of food. These standards have to be modified from time to time with the food chain in view. Non packaged foods and fresh foods… must be put on regular surveillance to bring hygiene in the food chain.”

Dr Prakash also called for state and central labs to be upgraded. “Analytical laboratories should not suffer because they are under states, and because the Centre has more money. The state labs are short of analytical personnel and ill-equipped to perform to capacity as compared to private labs which are approved by FSSAI with the condition that they need to be accredited by NABL (the national accreditation authority for labs),” he said.

Dr Prakash said there was also a pressing need for the NABL system to have a separate slot for food testing laboratories instead of them being clubbed under chemical laboratories.

”The testing for chemicals and for food is completely different. The matrices are different, the recoveries are different and extraction procedures are different. For instance, if you are testing for arsenic in soil and food, the analytical method could be same but the preparation of the sample for analysis can be completely different for soil and food,” he said.

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  1. A
    Ajoy
    Jun 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm
    Because of the food safety alarm rang pertaining to MAGGI by Mr. Pandey and Mr. Singh of Barabanki’s Food Inspection Unit the consumers of MAGGI could know about the food safety lapses pertaining to MAGGI which ultimately culminated into almost a nation-wide recall of MAGGI. India needs such praise-worthy Food Inspectors who expose unhealthy processed foods in ground reality dia has World-cl food testing laboratories and Food Scientists and Food Technologists comparable to any advanced countries of the world. India also has world-cl food regulators backed by advice from 3 times chairman of Codex Alimentarius Commission (equivalent to Universal Food Law Commission) Mr. Sanjay Dave to FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) speak volumes in itself that in the matters of food safety India is second to none. India has world’s first Forensic Sciences University in hinagar inaugurated by Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi just a few months before being elected speak volumes in itself that obviously India with the help of renowned Food Scientists can think to start bachelor’s and master’s degree courses in forensic food science to produce again world’s first graduates/post-graduates in forensic food science. India definitely needs such capabilities to prevent food adulteration in a more comprehensive manner and forensic food experts can perform the job to a t. (References:--- and 915108#comments
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    1. sathsih Periyasamy
      Jun 17, 2015 at 8:37 am
      i am supporting his claim. Yes modi's government should support to implement the international food safety standards in our food safety system as per Dr Prakash’s claim.
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      1. X
        xxx
        Jun 17, 2015 at 4:42 pm
        Because of BJP all these short comings are coming to light. I it was Cong people Food safety etc would be trivial issues, unless there is a scope for a scam. What is being asked now should have been asked and implemented 20, 30, 40, 50 are even 70 years back. offcourse Cog Govts would not be bothered about trvial things like food safety.....
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