Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 was enacted on August 23, 2006. It completed a decade. FSSAI recently organised a programme in Delhi to commemorate the decade of the Act. FSSAI has launched various new initiatives to spread the food safety culture involving all groups of stakeholders. Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, talks to NuFFooDS Spectrum about what FSSAI did for the implementation of FSSA 2006 and what are its plans for the next decade.
What are the main key changes that are different from the earlier Acts?
I think, in one stroke, the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 brought about a paradigm shift in the way we look at food safety regulations. This Act is an integrated food law. When this Act was enacted pre-existing nine Acts and several orders were re-pealed. But that is not enough to say. I feel it did not just unify the previous Acts into a single Act, but it marked a change in the basic thinking about the process of implementing food safety - from detecting adulteration and punishing the culprit, to promoting self-regulation and setting science based standards for the same. On one hand it stresses on self-regulation and precaution than detection and punitive action and on the other setting standards and risk assessment is the base of the Act. Modern processing and new technologies emerging in the food processing sec-tor required a new law to match with them and the FSS Act fulfills that need.
How do you see the industry response to the Act and how was it earlier?
Whenever any law is introduced there are always doubts in the minds of stakeholders. How this Act will affect my business, what will I have to do to cope with the new rules, will it increase my cost and other problems, will the legal hassles increase etc. The industry response in this initial phase is always very reserved and slow. There are doubts, uncertainties, non-clarity on the other side also. A process and clarity slowly evolves and then the industry response changes. Though I was not here to witness it in the initial phase, I think the food processing sector passed through the same process. Many interpretations were open for different rules and regulations leading to litigations. But lot of work was done during this period by FSSAI creating the solid foundation.
The industry response also changed. Initial apprehensions are over now. The industry is very positive and the industry and the regulator are moving ahead together, I feel. Still, there are some issues and difference of opinions. They will continue to re-main. But that does not mean that we are at two different sides turning away faces from each other. There is a mechanism to resolve issues. The FSSAI has brought in complete transparency. So, I am sure even the industry response must be changing. When FSSAI organised a function to commemorate the decade of the FSS Act, industry representatives were present in large number, I believe, indicating the positive mood of the industry. Maggi noodles episode is now a past. Lessons have been learnt on both sides and this is paving way for atmosphere of mutual trust between the FSSAI and all its stakeholders.
What are your expectations from the industry?
There are two types of expectations from the industry. One is related to the aspects related to regulations, setting standards etc. and the second is related to participation in FSSAI’s programmes for spreading food safety culture. FBOs need to be patient and they should have trust in the regulator.
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