What's concerning food industry? The food safety is a major talking point in the industry now-a-days with government being incredibly vigilant about the food quality.
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After the Maggi fiasco, things have gone upside down in the market. There is an uncertainty in the market, making food manufacturers anxious.
The need of hour is to have clarity on the dos and don'ts of food safety. Nobody would have thought that Maggi, a product cherished by people so much, would face the ban. What has it done to the company? It has tarnished Nestle's brand name and destroyed its market share, altogether. Examination or inspection kills the time and money of food product companies. The government should establish latest testing lab facility in the country aligning with the international standards in order to avoid confusion on food safety.
After the Maggi fiasco, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is continuously emphasizing on food safety and applying high standards on the industry. Recently, the FSSAI checked the mislabeling of "health supplements' in the country. As a result, the regulatory body came out with gazetted regulations that propose to ban the sale of such products (Ayurveda, Sidhha, Unani and other traditional health supplements) as "medicines." The regulator may fix permissible limits of various ingredients used in manufacturing. Gita Ramesh, Joint Managing Director, Kairali Ayurvedic Group, says, "Industry players should be aware about the kind of labelling they are using for selling products in the market. I do not think there is a need to ban certain Ayurvedic products until and unless they are harming consumers. We need to make the industry better and think of its growth. In fact, the FSSAI should research on it properly." "We always send our manufactured Ayurvedic medicines to the drugs department for getting the license to sell in the market. We definitely take care of our labelling and design. We strictly follow rules before selling our products in the market," she says. Not only this, the regulatory authority has taken steps to check milk quality ahead of this festive season. The regulatory body is ensuring to set up machines that can test the quality of sweets instantly. Actually, FSSAI is trying to impose stringent measures on manufacturers producing nutrition plus pharmaceutical products. "Time has come to align Indian Food safety laws with the Codex – International food standards. FSSAI should also review the existing standards for food safety and quality and adopt new standards to address the changes in the marketplace," says Vivek Pathak, Senior Manager-Marketing, Cremica Food Industries Ltd.
SCARCITY OF MODERN FACILITIES
The reason for Maggi fiasco was the lack of modern food testing laboratories. The Supreme Court slammed FSSAI after the Bombay High Court lifted the ban on Maggi. The SC said that the regulator was exceeding its authority in imposing a virtual ban on food and health supplements.
"It (FSSAI) has been critical in the above-mentioned case. Having latest and modern testing equipment can lead to much better and seamless implementation of laws and avoid confusion in future," Pathak says. FSSAI recalled Nestle's Maggi noodles in the country following lab tests that showed unsafe levels of lead in some samples. Amid media reports, the regulatory body neither stepped back from its view on Maggi nor gave any clean chit to Maggi noodles.
Earlier, Dr V Prakash, who chairs the scientific panel of the FSSAI on nutritional foods and dietary supplements, said, "India should not dilute the standards. We should be at par with international standards, such as Codex." RS Sodhi, Managing Director, Amul, says, "There should be implementation and monitoring of standards by the regulatory authorities right from the source to consumer." The use of tainted water, unreliable cold storage network, raw materials of poor quality and retailing, which is usually implemented by tiny local grocers, affect India's reputation globally. Sodhi believes that manufacturers should be responsible enough to produce safe products and follow self-discipline in achieving the end result. "We feel that if your raw material is of good quality, your finished goods will certainly be of the right quality provided other ancillary parameters are maintained as designed," he adds. "We can install bulk milk coolers at village level and this will help in immediate chilling of milk and reduce microbiological growth. The formation of village-level co-operative societies will enable milk pooling at common place and easy and fast transportation of milk to processing plants. In short, controls at farm level will enhance the safety of any food, and this is what Amul has been practicing since its inception. We believe if we start today, India will certainly reach to level of food standards being maintained in the developed countries by next 20-30 years," concludes Sodhi.
(This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (October, 2015 Issue).