Ensuring Safe and Nutritious Food: The Vital Role of FSSAI in India

In today's health-conscious world, the significance of access to safe and nutritious food cannot be overstated. As consumers become increasingly aware of the link between diet and overall well-being, the responsibility falls on regulatory bodies to uphold food safety standards. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) stands as a cornerstone of assurance, ensuring the safety of the food supply chain across the nation for protecting public health and maintaining consumer confidence.

under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSS), 2006, FSSAI operates as the apex food regulatory body in the country with the mandate to ensure safe and wholesome food for all citizens. As a part of its core regulatory functions, FSSAI sets science-based, globally benchmarked standards for food safety; ensures credible food testing for quality and compliance to these standards and processes through effective surveillance mechanisms.

The food authority has a Scientific Committee and 21 Scientific Panels that are its principal scientific arms in the standards development process. The authority has empanelled more than 200 scientific experts from different scientific organisations such as ICMR, CSIR, ICAR, NIFTEM, IITs and various institutes working in the area of food safety and nutrition. These panels are constantly engaged in developing standards for categories ranging from cereals, milk and milk products, fruits, vegetables and spices, oils and fats, water, fish and fisheries, meat and meat products, sweets, genetically modified organisms and food, food additives etc.

FSSAI’s role is vital to ensure maintenance of food quality all throughout the food value chain, be it in the inspection of food manufacturing facility or distribution or retail facility and subsequent laboratory testing as defined under the FSS Act. The government already has a framework in place with food safety commissioners heading at the state level, designated officers at the sub-divisional level and more than 4,000 food safety officers keeping a sharp vigil against food adulteration and contamination. In order to ensure better quality control of food manufactured/distributed/supplied in the market, there are also 246 FSSAI-notified food laboratories in the country with state-of-the-art infrastructure and highly-qualified experts.

Enforcement is undertaken on the basis of surveillance, monitoring, inspection and random sampling of food products carried out by the officials of Food Safety Departments. FSSAI has in-place digital tools for inspection and sampling namely FoSCoRIS which helps field officers in recording their observations along with capturing real-time data during inspections such as images, uploading of records etc. Captured Sample Details, are then forwarded to Labs through FSSAI’s InFoLNet portal for uploading of lab test reports. These lab test reports are then made available digitally to all concerned jurisdictional authorities. The historical data regarding food business establishments helps authorities to take rationalised approach while conducting enforcement activities.

Food Safety Connect App has been developed to connect consumers with the Authority and is available to the consumers for lodging their Food Safety Grievances from anywhere in the country and get its timely and satisfactory resolution.

Empowering food safety officials, food handlers and food business operators (FBOs) with the necessary tools to implement food safety and quality through training has been a focus area for FSSAI, and it has trained more than 1.5 million food handlers and FBOs since 2017. FSSAI plans to scale up its training programme to 2.5 million food handlers and FBOs in the next three years.

To improve nutritional status of children, FSSAI has notified the Food Safety and Standards (Safe food and balanced diets for children in school) Regulations, 2020. With effect from 1st July, 2021, it restricts the availability of foods high in saturated fat or trans-fat or added sugar or sodium in school campus or within 50 metres of the schools. This regulation prohibits the advertisement or marketing of food products, high in saturated fats or trans fats or added sugar or sodium within school campuses or within fifty metre radius. It also promotes consumption of safe and balanced diet in and around school campus.

FSAAI uses various tools and mediums to promote to promote safer, healthier and sustainable food habits in the country. For mass consumer awareness and bringing about a shift in eating behaviour, emphasis has been placed on encouraging healthy food choices. FSSAI launched the “Aaj Se Thoda Kam” mass awareness campaign to reduce salt, fat and sugar in diets. Apart from this, FSSAI promotes a variety of foods considering the vast diversity in diet, culture, customs etc. for wholesome nutrition. Citizens are nudged to make right food choices and promote diet diversification with a variety of whole grains ranging from wheat and rice, which are commonly consumed, to millets and other indigenous grains for better nutrition.

Over the years, FSSAI has been providing regulatory stewardship by setting-up robust food standards comparable to international benchmarks; finalising important regulations for regulating the food ecosystem; and strengthening compliance and surveillance efforts. On the other hand, FSSAI has also taken up a large-scale citizen centric campaign through its flagship initiative ‘Eat Right India’ for social and behavioural change; as well as awareness generation efforts so that everyone can have access to safe, healthy and sustainable diets.