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World Food Safety Day: Major concern areas in India & Odisha that need to be addressed

Food standards form the bedrock of trust as most of us read food packaging labels to see what ingredients the product contains or how to cook it.

Vikash Sharma
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World Food Safety Day 2023PhotoPhoto: WHO

Food Standards Save Lives

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June 7 is observed as World Food Safety Day (WFSD). This year the theme is ‘Food standards save lives’. Despite several adopted standards, sometimes it gets difficult for the consumers to know the food that they are eating is safe or not.

Food standards form the bedrock of trust as most of us read food packaging labels to see what ingredients the product contains or how to cook it. Most governments and organizations adopt and enforce food standards that are based on scientific risk assessments, covering hazards that are biological, chemical and physical in nature.

What World Health Organisation (WHO) Says

Food Standards Save Lives….

Foodborne diseases affect 1 in 10 people worldwide each year, and food standards help us ensure what we eat is safe. Key Highlights One in ten people worldwide falls ill from contaminated food each year.

It affects all countries. Over 200 diseases are caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances such as heavy metals.

Key Concern Areas In Odisha

Of late there have been several incidents where several units engaged in the adulteration of various food items have been busted in different parts of Odisha. Be it ghee, spices, edible oils or even liquor, adulteration of food products is really concerning as health of people is always at risk due to consumption of such adulterated items.

On March 24, 2023, huge quantity of duplicate foreign liquor was also seized by the Sambalpur Excise Department at Ranibandha area in the district.

The Commissionerate Police for the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar had also busted several units manufacturing adulterated food items in the past couple of years. Several municipal corporations do have their own health squads and surprise inspections are conducted at regular intervals.

Codex Alimentarius Commission It is pertinent to mention here that here is also an international food safety and quality standard-setting body- the Codex Alimentarius Commission, or Codex for short. India became the member of Codex Alimentarius in 1964.

The Codex Alimentarius has 236 standards, 84 guidelines, 56 codes of practice, 126 maximum levels for contaminants in food, and over 10 000 quantitative standards covering maximum levels for food additives and maximum residue limits for pesticides and veterinary drugs in food. (As of February 2023).

Since 2016, the Codex Trust Fund, a joint FAO and WHO programme to enhance participation in Codex, has supported 50 developing and transition economy countries in strengthening their institutions to participate more effectively in Codex work.

The Food Safety And Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also been issuing necessary guidelines, protocols and standards that need to be followed.

In the month of May, 2023, the FSSAI took against misleading claims and advertisements by the food business operators. The Advertisement Monitoring Committee of FSSAI reported 32 fresh cases which have been found prima facie in contravention of the provisions of Food Safety and Standards (Advertisements & Claims) Regulations, 2018.

The food products scrutinized include various range of products like health supplements, organic products, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) products, staples etc. and the claims identified include various health claims, product claims etc. Further, the FBOs include manufacturers and/or marketers of nutraceutical products, refined oils, pulses, flours, millet products, ghee etc.

The total number of such cases of reported misleading advertisements and claims during last six months has gone up to 170 cases and the action against such delinquent Food Business Operators shall also continue in future, FSSAI said.

Ripening Of Fruits Major Concern

It is pertinent to mention here that artificial ripening process by which fruits are ripened in a controlled manner to achieve desired outcome like optimum ripening and better consumer acceptance apart from ensuring a longer shelf life of fruits also poses a threat.

FSSAI has prohibited the use of Calcium carbide also known as ‘Masala’ as a ripening agent for artificial ripening of the fruits as per the provision in sub-regulation 2.3.5 of Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulation, 2011.

FSSAI has recognized ‘ethylene’ as a safe ripening agent at a concentrationup to 100 ppm (100μl/L) depending upon the crop, variety, and maturity through sources like ethephon, ethereal.

Despite the above directions, it has been brought to the notice of FSSAI that the traders/handlers are still indulging in use of prohibited material i.e. Calcium Carbide or are using the approved sources of ethylene gas in an incorrect manner like dipping the fruits in ripening agent solutions which may render the fruits unsafe for human consumption.