Demand for import variety surges
Amid reports of rising imports of teas from Nepal, the Tea Board of India has unveiled an exercise to test the teas.
Samples of these teas are being tested at the regulator’s Quality Control Laboratory in Siliguri in North Bengal, itself a major tea-trading centre. The testing is being done to check whether the teas conform to the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India norms, sources said.
This facility was created mainly to cater to the needs of the Darjeeling tea industry, almost 80% of which is exported. The laboratory has facilities for testing for the presence of pesticide residue, of heavy metals and to analyse microflora and other toxins. The presence of these elements not only compromises the quality of tea, but also impacts consumer acceptance of the beverage in domestic and global markets.
For the past few years, rising imports of Nepal teas have been a source of concern to the Darjeeling tea industry.
Import of teas from Nepal to India stood at 11.4 million kg in 2015, rising to 12.2 million kg in 2016. Between January to July of 2017, about 4.3 million kg was imported according to official statistics. India imports these teas under the India Nepal Free-Trade agreement and the teas are substantially cheaper than the Darjeeling brew.
There are now fears that the recent Gorkha Janmukti agitation, which led to a prolonged shutdown of the Darjeeling tea industry, has paved the way for increased imports of tea from Nepal, which is similar to Darjeeling teas.
This development comes at a time when the Darjeeling tea industry is limping back to normalcy after the 104-day strike.
A meeting of the Area Scientific Committee of the Tea Research Association took place in Kurseong, where planters and scientists got together to hammer out a strategy to overcome the crisis situation, discussing the practices to be adopted for plucking.
“The need to ready the gardens for the first flush plucking beginning in March, and the possibility of salvaging some leaves for now was discussed,” according to official sources.
Participants discussed issues such as clearing and weeding the gardens and managing the overgrown tea bushes and pests.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified the Food Safety and Standards (Import) Regulation 2017, making it mandatory for importers to obtain its license.
In the new regulations, which was notified earlier this month, the FSSAI said: “No article of food shall be cleared from the customs unless it has a valid shelf life of not less than 60 per cent at the time of import”.
It specified that no person shall import any food article without an import license from the Central Licensing Authority in accordance with the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011.
FSSAI said it has brought the regulation with an aim to streamline the process of clearance of imported food in an efficient and transparent manner.
It includes provisions related to licensing of food importer; clearance of imported food by the Food Authority; storage, inspection and sampling of imported food.
Besides, the new regulations have provisions for laboratory analysis of samples of imported food, prohibition and restriction on food imports, and amenable food labelling provision for ease of trade.
“The regulation also specifies the scheme for risk based sampling of imported food articles, which facilitates ease of doing business while not compromising the health of Indian public,” the regulator said.
FSSAI further said that its officials at the customs can reject consignments which do not comply with the provisions of Labeling and Packaging Regulations, 2011 at the visual inspection, without drawing any sample.
However, these rules will not apply to individuals bringing food items for personal use provided that the value of such products does not exceed the amount allowed by customs from time to time.
Giving a ray of hope to the babies born with genetic metabolism disorders in the country, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has allowed import of special foods meant to cater their nutritional need.
The top food regulation body has recently identified 15 Inborn errors of Metabolism (IeM) disorders, for which specialty foods can be imported for the next two years — by the time which the FSSAI hopes to frame standards for such products.
IeM are rare genetic (inherited) disorders in which the body cannot properly turn food into energy. The disorders are usually caused by defects in specific proteins (enzymes) that help break down (metabolise) parts of food. Long term treatment requires a special diet. The diet includes a man-made infant formula with low levels of the amino acids depending on the metabolism disorder.
IEMs can lead to permanent neurological, cognitive, tactile, and physical damage in the child but if detected early enough, they can all be treated leading to completely normal development. One of the factors contributing to their high prevalence in India is said to be consanguineous marriages and marriage within communities over generations.
Studies indicate that up to 15 per cent of new born sick babies could have treatable metabolic disorders which go unknown leading to mental retardation and death.
“Such specialty foods for such babies are not readily available in India. Moreover, in the absence of the standards for such items, it is difficult to import them in the country. FSSAI has been receiving representation from various organisations for allowing these foods in the country”, a senior official from the authority said.
While we have already started the process to work in this direction (framing standards), in the meanwhile, to ensure patients do not suffer, we have allowed the import of such foods with certain conditions so that the move is not misused, he said.
As per circular issued in this regard, the import has been allowed for two years or till the standards for such food items are framed. The labels on such foods should clearly mention the medical conditions for which they have to be used. The importers will also have to ensure that they are given to the patients under the supervision of the medical professionals.
Some of the IeMs identified by the FSSAI are Maple Series Urine Disease, Glutaric Acedmia Type 1, Amino Acid Metabolic Disorders, Urea Cycle disorders and Hypoallergenic conditions like severe allergy due to multiple food protein intolerance that cannot be effectively managed by extensively hydrolysed formula, severe allergy due to intact milk protein and soya protein.
The company, based in Long Island City, NY, sold the packaged sambar powder from January through October through two wholesalers, one in New York and one in Ohio. Distribution beyond the wholesale level is not included in the recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration website.
Consumers can identify the recalled MTR sambar powder by looking for specific information on individual 200-gram packages, which weigh about 7 ounces. The coding “LOT NO# 15J27C, MFD.27.10.15” is printed on the plastic pouches.
No illnesses had been reported as of the posting of the recall notice on Monday afternoon.
The FDA discovered the potential contamination through previous product sampling, according to the recall notice..
Consumers who purchased the product are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company’s consumer affairs at 347-581-7931, Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. EST.
Anyone who has eaten the recalled multi-spice powder and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor doctor about the possible Salmonella exposure.
Salmonella is a microscopic organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea that may be bloody, nausea,vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.