fssai revamp to expand its horizon

The Centre has moved to revamp the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the prime regulatory authority for food safety in India, giving it more powers, extending its jurisdiction over animal feed, enhancing penalties imposed for violations and simplifying processes.

The ministry of health and family welfare has framed Food Safety and Standards (Amendment) Bill 2020 and introduced 70 amendments in the 2006 Act to revamp FSSAI functioning and its jurisdiction. With the amendments, the government has proposed to bring regulation of animal feed industry under FSSAI. So far, the regulatory body had powers on food industry. In the 2006 Act, an amendment is proposed which would include,

“It is expedient in the public interest that the Union should take under its control the food and animal feed industry.” The government has included a detailed definition of animal feed. Apart from animal feed industry, the government has also decided to specify standards for “food contact material”, which would mean specifying standards for food packaging material.

Stringent Penalties

The government has also proposed to make the Act more stringent prescribing enhanced penalties for violations, including manufacture and sale of unsafe food, adulteration of food causing death, carrying out business without licence and repeat offences. The amendments propose enhancing maximum fine for manufacturing and sale of unsafe food from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh.

A new section has been introduced to define penalty for adulteration of food causing death or grievous hurt. In case unsafe food causes “harm to body which amounts to causing grievous hurt even if it does not cause actual injury”, the punishment could extend upto life imprisonment.

The move comes six years after the Modi government had withdrawn a similar Bill introduced by Congress-led UPA in Rajya Sabha in February 2014. The NDA government had withdrawn it after a Cabinet decision in December 2014 and decided to bring a more comprehensive Bill to address systemic issues and incorporate rulings of Supreme Court and Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court. The ministry of health and family welfare would now invite suggestions on the draft Bill.

More powers at the top

The government has also proposed to appoint a chief executive officer at FSSAI as member secretary to oversee functions. So far, the role had not been defined. A big change proposed is the vesting of powers of appointment of members with Central government. Earlier the Act said that chairperson and members would be selected by the Centre on recommendations of the selection committee. Now, there would be no role of a selection committee in appointment of members.

The government also proposes to simplify the process of serving notices to a food business operator, who is running unsafe restaurants or any other establishment. A long winding process has been shortened.

Source : The Economic Times Oct 1,2020

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