Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) believes it is critical to raise the bar for hygiene and food safety practices adopted in meat and fish shops and slaughterhouses in the country, at a time when the world is coping with the novel Coronavirus outbreak, which has reportedly originated from a wholesale animal and seafood market in Wuhan, China.
The food safety authority has stepped up efforts in this direction and will be initiating hygiene-rating certification for meat and fish shops in collaboration with the State governments. In the past year, it conducted third-party audits of municipal slaughterhouses and is in the process of making third-party audits mandatory for private fish and meats shops and slaughterhouses (among other high-risk food categories).
Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI said, “The issue of hygiene and food safety practices adopted in the meat and poultry sector has becomes even more significant, at a time when the world is dealing with the novel coronavirus. We want to focus on further increasing sensitisation among food business operators and consumers regarding the issue of food safety and hygiene in this sector.”
Elaborating on the steps taken by FSSAI, he added, “We conducted audit of municipal slaughterhouses in the past year and believe they require a lot of hygiene upgradation. Private slaughterhouses are also now getting third-party audits. At the same time, we have initiated hygiene-rating certification at our own cost for meat and fish shops in collaboration with the State governments. Initially we will fund hygiene-rating certification for 50 meat and fish shops to create sensitisation.” FSSAI hopes that hygiene rating scheme will be adopted by all meat and fish product shops in the next one year.
The food safety regulator will also begin a market surveillance exercise to look into the issue of safety and quality in imported packaged food and food supplements in the coming months. “We have received many complaints regarding quality and safety of imported packaged food products and food supplements. So, we will be doing a market surveillance of certain categories of imported products to understand the key problems in this space,” Agarwal said.
Testing facilities at ports
To ensure ports used for food imports are linked with proper testing facilities, FSSAI has already rationalised the number of ports allowed for food imports to 150 from 360. “Further, we may look at putting additional restrictions on import of certain products from certain ports which may not be adequately equipped to conduct proper inspection and testing of those categories of food products, ” he said.
On Monday, FSSAI announced the setting up of six branch offices, four import offices and two food laboratories in the country to strengthen its pan-India presence in the country. With this, FSSAI will have four regional offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, 12 branch offices and 6 import offices, it stated.
It will also have four national food laboratories in Kolkata, Delhi-NCR, Mumbai JNPT and Chennai. While it has already upgraded the national food lab in Delhi-NCR (Ghaziabad), work on upgradation of the Kolkata-based national lab is in the advanced stages. “We will set-up two new food labs in Mumbai JNPT and Chennai and the already built-up space will be taken on long-term lease from port authorities to establish these two new food labs,” Agarwal said. He added that laboratory extension centres at Sanauli and Raxaul on Indo-Nepal border will also be expanded into full-fledged food labs.