Thursday, December 17, 2015

Poison on platter

                                               G Sreedathan

The food we eat is the cause of about 90 per cent of our diseases and health problems. With increase in affluence and pressures of modern life, we started punishing our bodies, knowingly or unknowingly. Besides, those who produce and sell food items and other dietary products, in the lure of money, often indulge in food adulteration. Even permissible ingredients in food items sometimes cause serious health problems.

Although there are sufficient legislations to prevent, they have failed to curb the menace. The aim of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act is to ensure that consumers get pure and wholesome and also prevent fraud or deception. The initial legislation had loopholes and hence the Act has been amended three times in 1964, 1976 and in 1986. The punishments have been made more stringent and Consumers and Voluntary Organizations have been empowered to play a more effective role in its implementation. The PFA Act is in the list of the constitution but it is enforced by the State/U.T Governments. The major role of Central Government is as an advisory in its implementation.
The first law to regulate the quality of food was made in the country 1899. Up till 1954 the states made their own food laws and there were substantial differences in the rules and specifications of the food. This hindered inter-provincial trade. The Central Government is empowered by the Constitution of India for making legislations on Food and Drugs Adulteration. A legislation called Prevention of Food adulteration Act (PFA) was endorsed in the year 1954 for making uniformity in food laws all over India. It came into effect from 15 June, 1955.
Prevention of Food Adulteration Programme: The under PFA Rules have been amended several times and quality standards for about 250 food articles which are commonly consumed in India have been fixed. Implementation of food standards in corporation/municipal area rests with the local bodies. These bodies employ their own food inspectors for examination and maintenance of standards. They are responsible for licensing of food industries/establishments as well.

The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA) was passed by Parliament in August 2006.  After this legislation came into effect the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 stands revoked. However the standards, safety requirements and other provisions of the Act and the rules and regulations made under Prevention of Food Adulteration Act are still followed by this act until new standards are specified under this Act or rules and regulations made.
Provided that anything done or any action taken under the enactment and Orders under repeal shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the corresponding provisions of this Act and shall continue in force accordingly unless and until superseded by anything done or by any action taken under this Act. Owing to trade in food commodities globally, food safety is no longer considered as a domestic issue. The WTO has specified that development of modern food control and safety programs by national Governments are needed. Food quality refers not only to end product parameters but also to process control. The Central Government has started a Project for Food Safety and Quality Control of Drugs with aid from World Bank.
Over 68 per cent of milk sold in the country does not conform to the standards set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the Centre had told the Supreme Court on a plea for checking sale of synthetic and adulterated milk and various dairy products.
The submission has been made by the Centre in its affidavit which referred to a survey conducted by the FSSAI, which had found that over 68 per cent of the "non-conforming" milk was found in urban areas, 66 per cent of which was loose milk.
We often find that food we used to traditionally eat was the most appropriate for our health. There are efforts going on in the country to promote traditional food items. Annam being held in Kochi is one such endeavour.                      

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