The recent furore over Maggi noodles has forced the state-run Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inculcate some extra measures in their vigilance system. Starting 2016, FDA commissioner has sought permission from the state government to run a skill training centre, at the headquarters located in Bandra-Kurla, for its own inspectors along with tie-ups with several industries for sensitisation of street food vendors.
According to the state FDA commissioner, Dr Harshdeep Kamble, the idea has received an unofficial nod from the state government. “A proposal will now be drafted and sent to the government,” he said.
According to the commissioner, with a series of tests of Maggi noodles and its tastemaker packets, across the country, it was realised that there is a need to upgrade food and drug inspectors’ knowledge about the new technologies and food practices in the market.
When the Uttar Pradesh’s FDA first announced that Maggi was laced with excessive lead and had traces of monosodium glutamate (MSG), the first road block that state FDA faced was the methodology to test and ascertain MSG’s safety levels. “There are no guidelines to suggest how much MSG is permissible in a food product. Food inspectors and lab analysts were at a loss,” an official from state FDA admitted.
Currently, the eligibility criteria to work at FDA is a science background (BSc) for food and a graduation degree in pharmacy for drug inspector. The recruited inspectors undergo a month-long training before entering the field. There is no skill development workshop for them during their entire tenure. “With rapid development in food technology and newer drugs emerging in the market, it would do good to make skill development an ongoing process,” said Kamble.
The FDA will also sign an MoU with food and drug manufacturing industries to hold regular training sessions as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity. The training sessions will rope in street food vendors to sensitise them about right food practices, such as the required hygiene, use of safe ingredients and the accepted process of food preparation.
Meanwhile, the FDA is expecting laboratory results of various processed food samples, such as pasta, its variants and noodles of nine varieties from different brands within two weeks. “We will be checking for contraventions as per the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) guidelines,” said joint commissioner (food) Uday Vanjari.