PFNDAI seminar looks at tackling risk assessment, food safety challenges
A seminar on Food Safety Risk Assessment in Regulatory Dialogues, held here on Thursday, addressed ways to derisking our food through thorough checks and precise modelling of the threats.
Organised by Protein Foods and Nutrition Development Association of India (PFNDAI), the seminar started with Dr J S Pai, executive director, PFNDAI, delivering his welcome address. He said, "We are gathered here to really put forward some crucial areas where industry needs to cater its attention and those are safe food and nutritive food."
He was followed by other delegates who spoke on topics pertaining to regulatory dialogues in alignment and initiatives imparted by PFNDAI. The first half had two sessions – Session I and Session II.
Session I included lectures to establish the regulatory dialogue. Dr Joseph Lewis, consultant, FSSAI, said, "Industry is growing and so are the products but we have seen that pesticide residues found in vegetables and fruits are rampant. We need to root it out soon as these residues found are carcinogenic." He was followed by Dr Shatadru Sengupta, sr director, legal, and company secretary, Hardcastle Restaurants, he said, "Risk assessment is mandated in the Act. Act has so much, even surveillance is included in the Act. We really have to put all this before the authority."
The topic for Session II was Risk Assessment Application in Food. Dr Debabrata Kanungo, chairman of scientific panel on pesticides, FSSAI, speaking on basic process of risk assessment, said, "Everybody has a right to consume safe and nutritional food. And we have to strive for it. We have seen that before drugs are put for consumption, they are tested on animals, likewise we need to check for risk assessment of various food additives and the possible risk areas."
He was followed by Dr Sudarshan Rao, deputy director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, who stated, "To check the risk there is a need to inspect the element of toxicity. Not just toxicity on a superficial level but what are the absorption rates of the toxic material provided." He added, "Suppose, if we considered MSG and Lead, we have to find a threshold to devise the point of departure where no effect on human is seen with regards to the toxic material."
Post-lunch, the seminar started with a lecture by Dr Sesikeran. He said, "We in India don’t have much research literature by which we can rely on the suggestions to FSSAI. Literature is needed as FSSAI goes by only scientific evidences. We are not hungry anymore but we don’t consume nutrients anymore. Just one in 20 people worldwide don’t have any illness or disease and is healthy, says WHO study. Even there is a need to upgrade upper limits for vitamins to assess the risks involved. Not only they should specify the limit rather they should mention a safe range."
Later, Dr Nimish Shah from Hindustan Unilever Ltd., said, "80-90% of illnesses we have in India are due to microbiological factors like bacterias. We need to devise proper ways to study behaviour of this bacteria, how it reacts with the food or juices etc. For an example, sodium content in salt was lowered as it caused certain illnesses. Thus, we at Unilever sought to solve this problem through attaining a safe range where sufficient sodium was kept for the intake to offer needed benefits."
He added, “Mostly bacterias lead to contamination. We had a study at Unilever to seek observations, whether families maintain their personal hygiene or not and how do microbiological factors affect them. We selected 200 families in Bihar and provided them with pure water cans. At the end of the study we found that every week the diarrhoea causing bacteria were found in the cans as the water was contaminated by the family as members of the family didn’t bother to wash hands before taking out the water from the cans. This study shows that at least 50% of the disease causing agents can be avoided at personal level.”
Lastly, Dr Sudarshan Rao delivered the concluding remarks, "We should keep one thing in mind that most of the diseases we get are due to our home kitchen rather than the processed food we eat. The metals and other elements present are in traces and FSSAI is doing its job. Respect the laws. Even the adulterated substances like iron filings in tea should be studied. We should have research papers on them. Their point of departure has to be initiated so that we as a regulator know what is dangerous. ”
Overall the seminar highlighted points such as managing risk well and testing and gauging in advance the consequences that an additive will create through a good risk assessment schedule.