In letter to govt depts, FSSAI asks for list of licensed and regd FBOs
New Delhi: Almost three months after the August 4 deadline for licensing and registration of food business operators (FBOs) under FSS (Licensing and Registration) Regulations, 2011, lapsed without clarity over further extensions or action against erring FBOs, FSSAI seems to have finally taken some decision. The apex food regulator is contemplating further action by seeking list of FBOs that have completed the procedure.
In this regard, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has written letters to various government departments that have participated in the licensing and registration exercise, asking them to furnish details on FBOs that have obtained licence or secured registration under the regulations.
The departments include municipal corporations/municipalities, district health administrations, police departments, excise commissioners, tourism departments, state pollution control boards, fire departments, legal metrology departments and labour departments.
According to the data available with the apex food regulator, 28,645 FBOs had obtained Central licenses, 7,39,732 FBOs had obtained state licenses and 28,62,838 FBOs had registered till September 20, 2016.
An FSSAI official stated, “The extension of the deadline was only for the conversion from the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.”
“Five years have passed since the implementation of the latter. Hardly anybody is left to convert. However, we asked for the list of licensed FBOs in order to assess how many FBOs have not converted their licences to the new one or not obtained licences,” he added.
The official stated that it would take some time before the final assessment, which has begun. It is pertinent to mention here that the number of FBOs in India is not known and only an estimated figure exists (which roughly puts the number between three and five crore).
No further extension
Meanwhile, FSSAI has refused to extend the deadline further. The mood prevalent in the apex food regulator has been such that it is opposed to any move to extend it. Ashish Bahuguna, chairman, FSSAI, confirmed the same.
“It will defeat the very purpose of food safety and licensing and registration of FBOs,” said a senior FSSAI official, adding that the regulator will initiate action against the errant FBOs in accordance to the norms and procedure laid down. He stated that the states were responsible for initiating any action.
It also appeared that FSSAI was in no haste to initiate any action based on assumption. The fact of the matter remains that since the idea of enforcement now has turned towards a surveillance-based food safety management system, wherein the consumers would play the lead role in raising the concerns for which the apex food regulator has recently added a link to its website.
According to sources, some of the rules and regulations of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 are being reviewed by the government. Until that is done, there will be no review into any extension.
In the meantime, FSSAI is taking initiatives like using Aadhar centres to disburse the registrations. Sources said the programme was getting recognition as traders and FBOs were using the platform to register under the Act.
And since the licences were issued for a particular period (a maximum of five years), some state officials felt that there was no point further extending the deadline.
Chandrakant Salunkhe, assistant commissioner (food), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maharashtra, said, “All the licences which were issued before FSSAI came into being would have expired by now.”
“The licences issued in 2011 may have expired before August 2016. So why would either the ministry or FSSAI extend the deadline to obtain licences for conversion. There is no point,” he added.
Now, FBOs having expired Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, or other licences will be fined and asked to obtain new licences under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
FBOs which have not obtained any licences yet will be treated without licences under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and will be liable for punitive action under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.