Food Ingredients, India, a trade show held in Mumbai 19 - 21 October, hosted a series of food safety seminars. The goal of the seminars was to explore how the Indian food manufacturing firms are coping with the evolving food law in India and to assess their level of understanding and implementation of the current food regulations.
Delegates included representatives from quality control, quality assurance, food safety audit firms, food testing laboratories and as well as the representatives of the food authorities.
The topics discussed at seminars included: “Managing Quality with Food Safety”; “Zero tolerance on Analytical testing”; “Requirements of Food Safety Management Systems”; “IT in end to end Food Safety and Standards Compliance”. A panel discussion focused on “Cost of Non-compliance”.
Selerant’s Regulatory Specialist participated at the event and picked up some of the key take-home messages. But before that, here is an overview of food regulatory situation in India.
Food regulatory setting in India
With the repeal and unification of 8 former food safety laws into a single Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the regulations of 2011, it was understood since the establishment that the FSSAI would be facing an uphill task in implementing the food safety rules and regulations. On the other hand, it was also understood by the industry that confusions would arise in the process of evolving rules and regulations.
From time to time, the regulator has been framing regulations and standards by adopting comments based approach from stakeholders. Since the majority of products manufactured in India fall into the category of ‘Proprietary products’, it was recognized that standards were not available for such products. The same was also true for products that were imported into the country for which standards were not available. Systems like ‘Product approval’ were introduced to address gaps, but it was met with procedural, legal roadblocks eventually leading to withdrawal leaving the industry with more questions. However in the coming few months, these gaps are expected to be address as many regulations have been placed in the draft stage by the regulator to invite comments from the stakeholders.
Work is also being done on the front of harmonization of Indian standards with international standards such as Codex to address issues of non-availability of Indian standards for products but which have international food product standards established.
7 takeaways from the seminars
- ‘Food safety culture’ should be fostered throughout all the departments within the food industry. This was highlighted in a seminar session on “Managing Quality with Food Safety”.
- Laboratories performing tests on foods should pro-actively implement good laboratory practices to ensure accurate, reliable results. This point was stressed during the session on “Zero tolerance on analytical testing”.
- Industry should engage in a dialogue with the regulator wherever it sees a lack of framed regulations. This was suggested as there is a significant pressure on the regulator to map every Food Business Operator (FBO) in the country.
- The panel discussion revolved around major topics concerning manufacturers in India today: food safety incidents & regulatory compliance as implemented by the industry. An emphasis was placed on the reality of the statistics when compliance is concerned and the levels of awareness within the industry.
- The members of the discussion panel argued that, as far as the level of compliance and the awareness of it are concerned, the past few months of media attention have urged the FBOs to self-educate themselves on the food regulations that are in force.
- With the issue of authorities framing stringent regulations in the wake of food safety incidents, the industry feels that it is ready to adapt to such measures to ensure consumer confidence in the long run.
- It was unanimously agreed by all panel members, that stringent self-regulation, following good manufacturing practices and adopting general good practiceswould help retain customer confidence. This would also help avoid costly non-compliance incidents.
What’s up next in the Indian Food Law?
In the coming few months, the industry can expect to see new developments in Indian food regulations with regards to:
- Additive regulations – these are currently in the draft stage
- Microbiological criteria - for milk and meat products
- Compulsory declaration of trans-fats on the label
- Draft regulations on Nutraceuticals and functional foods
Stay up-to-date with the latest food regulatory changes in India, and worldwide, by signing up for a free trial of RegData®.