Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal Wednesday attacked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for “creating an environment of fear” in the food industry.
“A lot needs to be done as the FSSAI has created an environment of fear in the industry. It needs to streamline its regulations… its steps are stopping innovations in the processing sector,” Badal said.
“Without mentioning the big elephant in the room of food processing industry, the FSSAI, I would say a lot needs to be done to remove the recent roadblocks or, I would say, fear psychosis in the industry,” she said at a conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
This is the first time the FSSAI has been criticised by the government since its recent crackdown on food items. The food regulator had asked Nestle to withdraw nine variants of Maggi noodles from the shelves following reports that it contained high quantities of lead and mono sodium glutamate.
It also sent out a list of 33 noodles brands that it has approved and asked states to test samples to ensure that they adhere to prescribed standards. The directive forced some companies to withdraw their unapproved noodles brands from the market.
Maggi, meanwhile, has cleared regulatory hurdles in some foreign markets, and Nestle recently obtained the go-ahead from the Bombay High Court to export it.
FSSAI is a statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act which functions under the Health Ministry. While FSSAI chairman Y S Malik was not available for comments, sources in the food body said the minister’s comments could have been to allay concerns of the industry in the wake of the FSSAI directives.
Badal told CII the government is keen and committed to the growth of the domestic food processing sector and wants to create an environment for its progress. She also said a task force had been formed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on her request to look into regulatory issues and ensure the growth of the sector.
“I would even create a special committee within my ministry, with the representatives of the CII and the respective state heads in this task force as the members, in order to resolve the issues and help the food processing industry realise its desired potential,” Badal said.
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