The country’s apex food regulator is taking a major step towards improving food safety and hygiene standards in India.
As the Centre launches a large-scale campaign to promote healthy eating in India, it has been announced that 1.7 lakh inspectors have been trained by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) over a two-year period. The goal is to ensure uniformity of standards among India’s food retailers, including hotels and restaurants. These vendors will now be required by law to display food hygiene ratings based on supervisors’ rankings.
“The FSSAI has trained about 1.7 lakh food safety supervisors for capacity building under the Food Safety Training and Certification initiative. They will ask people and food vendors to comply with the food safety norms, including the hygiene aspect,” explained Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. He added that “the new food systems approach judiciously combines the regulatory and capacity building measures with consumer empowerment initiatives.”
Vardhan has advocated for stringent enforcement of food hygiene ratings. “We not only have to provide [the] right food, but also ensure that there is strict implementation of laws and the compliance of standards to assure that citizens have safe and wholesome food,” he said at the inauguration of the FSSAI’s National Food Laboratory in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh earlier this year. The impetus behind such efforts is clear. Food poisoning is the second most common cause of infectious disease outbreaks in India. Such incidents have proven lethal in numerous cases.
The Eat Right India campaign is a broad national effort to promote higher standards of nutrition among Indians, with such movements embraced by high-profile government figures including Vardhan and the Prime Minister. Incorporation of the FSSAI, according to Vardhan, will “facilitate informed consumer choices” via the imposition of “regulations on advertising and claims, and mandatory menu labelling…in addition, labelling provisions have been made for appropriate use of sweeteners for children and pregnant women.” The Centre is also moving towards the elimination of trans-fats in the next few years.
These efforts are necessary to promote food hygiene and to combat lifestyle diseases linked to poor dietary habits and other lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, Vardhan asserts. “Our country is in need of a ‘Jan Andolan’ [People’s Movement] on preventive and promotive health for all in the backdrop of the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases,” he said. “The Eat Right India movement with the collaboration of FSSAI will play a crucial role in preventive healthcare.”