Various states are in the process of strengthening their respective lab infrastructure. This includes the establishment of new facilities and ensuring their accreditation by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories(NABL).
Many opine that this is vital, particularly in the aftermath of Nestle’s Maggi controversy, wherein labs which initially indicted the noodle brand latergave it a clean chit.
With the upgradation or establishment of accredited labs,surveillance-based risk assessment, which has been envisaged, will also be put in place.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest and most populous state, has five functional labs. These are situated in Lucknow, Meerut, Agra, Varanasi and Gorakhpur.
Plans are afoot to establish another lab duly accredited byNABL at Jhansi.
State functionaries say that the state government has made food safetya priorityand a budget is allocated as and when required.
FSSAI has initiatedthe procedure for running the Ghaziabad food lab under public-private partnership (PPP) mode.
Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive officer, FSSAI, stated, “We are trying to run the lab at Ghaziabad under PPP mode.”
“We are in the process of identifying the private partners who can run the lab. Based on the experience,we will see if we can do the same withother facilities,” he added.
Of the six labs in Gujarat, three are state labs and three are municipal labs. “Of these, four are NABL-accredited, while the rest are in the process of getting the approval,” said HG Koshia, state food safety commissioner.
He added that a new building was being built in Patan district in northern Gujaratfor FDA lab with a budget of Rs 5 crore.This would cater to five neighbouring districts.
There is one NABL-accredited labin Bhopal. “Three other labs (situated in Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur) are in the process of getting approval,” said Pramod Shukla, joint controller, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Madhya Pradesh.
He added that the state government had earmarked a sum of Rs 5 crore for the purpose of strengthening lab infrastructure.
The state government willrecruit 145 lab technicians for the purpose of capacity building.
Shukla stated, “We are also ensuring microbiological testing in our state.”
TV Anupama, food safety commissioner, Kerala, stated that the state government had made plans to augment the capacityand approved new initiativesfor the purpose.
“Under capacity building initiatives,we recently undertooktraining sessions for officers deployed at the points of entry regarding the amended laws and rules. These sessions had 22 new recruits and others from FDAs and customs,” she said.
Anupama informed that the work of upgrading the four existinglabs in the state and ensuring NABLaccreditation had commenced.
There is a referral labin Pune and an accredited one in Mumbai. Plans are afoot for a state-owned labin Nagpur, where the samples procured would be tested.
“As Nagpur serves as a junction to its nearby districts, and samples from the nearby areas also are sent for testing, the labs will be upgraded and will be ready by March 2017. We will also apply for NABLaccreditation,” saidChandrakant Salunkhe, assistant commissioner(food), FDA Maharashtra.
However, some states have just one lab, which is not accredited by NABL. One of them is Himachal Pradesh.
There is only one lab in Solan, which is not accredited by NABL. Both food and drugs are tested at this facility.
However, state officials said that the government had plans to develop the food safety lab infrastructure.