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Rise in stds fuelling growth amongst third-party certification providers

1,June, 2019

In India, concerns over food came into focus after the Independence with the implementation of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. The main aim of the Act was to curb the menace of adulteration in Indian society, which was mainly due to unavailability of sufficient food to feed large population, and the profit-making nature of businessmen who took advantage of the illiterate population of India.
The majority of the population was unaware of consumer rights, hence the issues prevailed. In addition to the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, there were several Orders to regulate the food sector, which included The Fruit Products Order, 1955; The Meat Food Products Order, 1973; The Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947; The Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order 1998; The Solvent Extracted Oil, Deoiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967; The Milk and Milk Products Order 1992; and any other Orders issued under Essential Commodities Act, 1955; (10 of 1955) related to food.  
Multiplicity of the laws
With the passage of time and the changing scenario worldwide, Indians felt the need to change the regulatory system for the food industry, as the Indian food processing sector is most unorganised and difficult to control. With the multiplicity of the laws, the food sector was facing difficulties, hence to streamline the regulatory system in India and bring all the regulations and Orders under its ambit, in 2006, Parliament of India enacted the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. But actual implementation started from August 5, 2011, with the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, coming in to existence along with several regulations such as Food Safety and Standards (Licence and Registration of Food Business) Regulations, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Additives) Regulations, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sample Analysis) Regulations, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Food Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sale) Regulations, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Food Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011; with this started the implementation of Food Safety and Standards Act in India, which is more business-friendly, educative, coordinated with world food regulations among different countries.
Again with the passage of time, lacunae in the regulations were corrected and with the need of the hour, few more regulations came into existence in the last two to three years, they include mainly Food Safety and Standards (Food or Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Food for Special Dietary Uses, Foods for Medicinal Purpose, Functional Foods and Novel Food), Regulations, 2016; Food Safety and Standards (Food Recall Procedure) Regulations, 2017; Food Safety and Standards (Import) Regulations 2017; Food Safety and Standards (Organic Food) Regulations, 2017; Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations 2018; Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Food) Regulations, 2018; Food Safety and Standards (Food Safety Auditing) Regulations, 2018; and Food Safety and Standards (Advertisements and Claims) Regulations, 2018. More regulations are likely to come in the near future.
With the shift from the era of food adulteration to food safety, we see lot of scope for third-party service providers. From Nov 8, 2018, FSSAI made it compulsory to appoint food safety supervisors for restaurants, previously only manufacturers needed to appoint technical persons with specific qualifications mentioned in regulations such as food technology, food chemistry and food microbiology. So to train persons engaged in food business, FSSAI launched Food Safety Training and Certification (FoSTaC) for food business operators across the food value chain, which enroll lot of private training partners who conduct training for food business personnel for different categories across India.
Presently there are 160 training partners, 1,567 trainers registered with FSSAI, who trained 122,885 food business operators across India till now, conducting various courses for retail, manufacturing, catering, storage, transportation and special courses for milk and milk products, oil, bakery and street food vendors.
FSSAI-notified NABL labs
There are 129 FSSAI-notified NABL laboratories across India to perform analysis of food samples taken under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Also they perform analysis of samples from food industry with their specific need according to food products.
In India, presently, food industry is not fully equipped with advanced laboratories facilities, so this space is presently filled by private FSSAI-notified NABL laboratories. Some times, these laboratories provide research and development service to food industry. With the growth of food industry, there will be more FSSAI-notified NABL laboratories.
With the implementation of FSS Act, 2006, there is rampant increase in food consultancy services, which provide different types of services like plant installation, Food Safety Management System (FSMS) implementation, GMP, GHP and HACCP implementation.
Further, with the implementation of Food Safety and Standards (Food Safety Auditing) Regulations, 2018, there would be rampant increase in food safety auditors who perform internal audits, external audits and third-party audits. If some food industry performs third-party audits by FSSAI-certified auditors, there will be less frequent inspections by Central or state food safety regulators.
And with the implementation of Food Safety and Standards (Organic Food) Regulations, 2017, there would be agencies which would be recognised by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and recognised by National Programme for Organic Production for accreditation of certification bodies. Such agencies would offer certification service to the fast growing organic food sector in India.
Besides, there would be many more sections involved which are unnoticed, provide different types of services towards achieving the goal of food safety in India.   
(The author is a joint commissioner (food), FDA (MS) Amravati. He can be contacted at sureshannapure67@gmail.com)

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