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Globalization of food trade has necessitated a transnational system of production for foods. As a result, sourcing of raw materials across the continents is increasing and the need for food safety through out the food chain become important. Food safety, apart from being the fundamental right of the consumers is also becoming a competitive weapon and a symbol of national pride and confidence in the international food trade and business. Developing countries with a strong agricultural base and growing food processing industry such as India has the potential to become bread baskets of the world provided they could sort out the food safety concerns of the stakeholders. However it is a formidable challenge for Indian policy makers to tackle variety of food safety related issues in the context of country’s sheer size, diversity and complexity of food markets. No doubt the country had tried to create some islands of excellence in sectors like dairy by launching nation wide annual food safety and hygiene audits of dairy plants in which NPO, India is also a partner. But unless these efforts are transformed into a mass movement percolating food safety concerns and consciousness among all sectors and stakeholders a perceptible nation wide impact would remain a distant dream. Now the million dollar question is how to make food safety a mass movement? What are the impending constraints and challenges? What are the policy prescriptions available? A cursory look at the structure of food processing sector of many developing countries including India makes it amply clear that it is dominated by micro, small and medium scale enterprises. Home based units also dominate the canvass in products like pickles and traditional and ethnic foods. This diagnosis makes it imperative that policy prescriptions must address these sectors to create a perceptible impact on the overall food safety scenario. Introduction of new technology and/or modern food safety management systems in SMEs distinctly differ from larger enterprises because of their small size and restricted access to resources and knowledge. As the modern technology and management dealing with food safety is uncompromising, demanding and exacting in nature, it is unfair to expect SMEs to modernize straight away on their own .In addition the limited data available on immediate and tangible returns that accrue by investing in modern technology and management force SMEs to think twice to go for them. Business culture and consumer participation are the two key factors that would decide the success or failure of food safety campaigns. Business culture which is nothing but the attitude of entrepreneurs towards all stake holders in the food supply chain shall characterize by the ability to welcome and adjust to change, strive for excellence and
It is hard to find an enterprise which follows uniform food safety management practices both for domestic and international consumers. While it is understandable that these enterprises respond to target market requirements. Countries in the Asia-Pacific responded to the food safety challenges and opportunities in different ways. This means thorough understanding of country specific business cultures is essential before launching any large scale food safety campaigns. Harmonizing domestic food safety standards and practices with the international ones is one of the policy instruments available for policy makers to make food safety campaigns more credible and effective.put consumer interests on the top of the business agenda. While countries like Thailand which is widely believed and acknowledged as a success story relied on seamless food safety awareness campaigns launching series of training. by the consumers and of the consumers just like the definition of ‘democracy’ goes and their success must be ensured through their active involvement. incentive and certification programs both for export and domestic markets. In large and diverse countries like India understanding of even region/province specific business cultures is required to ensure effectiveness of the food safety campaigns. The business philosophy of classifying consumers on their quality consciousness and responding accordingly is the bane of food industry as well as the policy makers in the developing countries adversely affecting the credibility of food safety campaigns. A coherent and proactive policy is perhaps the most critical factor which makes food safety movement visible. Food safety records are invariably poor where consumers are ill informed. While consumers have every right to expect uncompromising food safety standards at competitive prices they must also be ready to go that extra step of paying little bit extra to encourage the food industry in the initial stages of market development. vibrant and effective. In fact the economic crisis of 1997 came as a blessing in disguise for the food industry in Thailand as the Thai . Mass food safety movements are after all for the consumers. Needless to add organization and empowerment of consumers coupled with timely redressal of grievances shall form an integral part of any meaningful food safety movement. An ideal policy environment shall inspire the food industry especially in the SME sector to adopt the best possible food safety assurance practices not only to have a competitive edge in the business but also to discharge their social responsibility. Developed countries can also lend a helping hand by accepting Codex standards and not insisting on more stringent ones creating technical barriers. the dual food safety policy would not pay in the long run. less organized and less vocal. Most of the food campaigns fail as they are excessively controlled by the Government functionaries with little or no involvement of consumers or consumer organizations. Export driven food enterprises in developing countries usually adopt modern food safety management practices by compulsion rather than conviction.
whereas such penalties might not be an effective deterrent for large companies. As part of the process of consolidation. multidepartmental control to a single line of command. India was slow to take off from the blocks with the real push came only in 2006 by the enactment of Food Safety and Standards Act and establishment of Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).government went all out to gain access to global food markets. Proactive and innovative measures such as provision of credit at low interest and 200 percent tax deduction campaign to implement modern food safety management systems had paid rich dividends in the long run putting Thailand firmly in the list of prominent food exporters. As a result Sri Lanka could penetrate successfully the global especially the European markets and sustain its presence in sharp contrast to the problems faced by the other countries in South Asia. storing or selling misbranded or sub-standard food is punished with a fine and more serious offences with imprisonment. The act aimed to establish a single reference point for all matters relating to food safety and standards. the penalty for manufacturing or selling substandard food extends to US$ 2000. and (b) to provide for scientific development of the food processing industry. Food hawkers in India are generally unaware of food regulations and have no training in food-related matters. which hamper their ability to provide safe . The act made provision for graded penalties where offences like manufacturing. by moving from multi-level. For instance. In the process government had identified and assigned specific tasks to some departments and agencies for extending and improving food quality and safety through modern food safety management systems. Milk and Meat. The street food vendors and hawkers can be fined up to US$ 2000. It incorporates the salient provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 and was based on international legislations. The act also made provision for compensation in case of injury or death of the consumer. The fines might prove to be debilitating for the unorganized sector and small scale enterprises. Sri Lanka on the other hand had concentrated mainly on fish and meat industry which cater to the export markets and earn valuable foreign exchange.The act focused on integrating the food safety laws in the country in order to systematically and scientifically develop the food processing industry and shift from a regulatory regime to self-compliance. They also lack supportive services such as water supply of adequate quality and waste disposal systems. the act repealed eight existing laws related to food safety covering sectors such as Fruits & Vegetables. The main objectives of this exercise were: (a) to introduce a single statute relating to food. while for misbranded food it extends to US$ 3000. Thailand case is a good example for other countries in the region to follow and adopt making suitable adjustments appropriate to local conditions. instrumentalities and Codex Alimentations Commission (Codex).
putting all the technical and administrative infrastructure in place one could expect a perceptible change and tangible improvement in the food safety related environment in the country. Recently this function had been brought under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The other disturbing scenario was the declining credibility of .e. Most of the dairy plants especially those operating on small scale were of the opinion that implementation of modern food safety management systems was beyond them keeping in view the lack of resources and access to knowledge. as had been done in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore India might be more successful in ensuring that this sector is able to maintain acceptable standards of hygiene and cleanliness. It had designated two agencies namely the National Productivity Council (NPC) and the Export Inspection Agency (EIA) conduct annual audits/inspections and submit the reports to the concerned regulatory authorities. promotion. If such facilities were provided to food vendors. Large plants were concerned more about the return on investments (ROI) due to lack of appreciation and recognition for their quality and safety improvement efforts in the market. in 2006 the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying Ministry of Agriculture took a major initiative to improve the food safety and hygiene situation in the Indian Dairy sector. testing facilities. penalties consumer and business safeguards and labeling the act was a welcome and long overdue step in the context of improving the food safety scenario prevailing in India. Once the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) settles down. it put the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that clean and adequate quality water is used even when tap water did not meet the required safety standards. Though standards were specified for water used as an input in manufacture/preparation of food. the act did not require any specific standards for potable water (which is usually provided by local authorities). Around the same time i. Cost of preparing food could also rise if each vendor or manufacturer had to invest in water purification systems. Despite reservations in some quarters about few aspects of the act pertaining to management of pesticide residues. The dairy plants are required to carry out the corrections/improvements suggested by the audit/inspection teams within a specified time frame by submitting the Action Taken Reports (ATR) to the concerned regulatory authorities. Thus. Incidentally India is the largest producer of milk in the world with around 800 dairy plants operating across length and breadth of the country. Through a gazette notification it had made it mandatory for all the dairy plants with a capacity to handle liquid milk of 10000 liters or more per day or produce 500 MT of dairy products annually to under go annual audit/inspection in order to continue their operations. This could be a tall order given the scale of operation of small food enterprises and street food vendors. traceability.food. Three years of NPC’s association with the above endeavor had brought in several interesting facts into focus.
Isolated legislative push and export centric initiatives on the other hand may succeed at best in creating some islands of excellence leaving majority of the population untouched making it an exclusive effort rather than inclusive one. ‘Right to information’. Thus consumers and consumer right organizations need to be in the fore front in exercising their right to food safety and forcing their way into policy formulation exercise. The most influential and widely quoted statement on consumer rights was from President Kennedy back in 1968. ’Right to Choose’. ‘Right to Consumer Education’ and ‘Right to a Healthy Environment’. He highlighted the consumers’ Right to Safety’. This could very well serve as a guideline for similar campaigns especially in the South Asian region where food safety scenario is more or less similar. One of the most visible and effective consumer awareness measures initiated by the Indian Government in the recent times is ‘Jago Grahak Jago’ (Wake up consumer Wake up) campaign through the mass media. ‘Right to Safety’.’ Right to information’ ‘ Right to Choose’ and ‘ Right to be Heard’. Dairy plants certified with the modern quality and food safety management systems such as ISO 9000.certification systems and agencies. The media blitzkrieg had not only highlighted the rights consumers enjoy but also the redressal mechanisms available to address their grievances. There were instances where milk products produced by the noncertified dairy plants enjoying more credibility and market share. ‘Right to Redress’. well organized and ensure their presence in every nook and corner of the country instead of restricting to only big cities. . This trend was noticed by the agencies like Quality Council of India (QCI) and measures had been initiated to make the process of accreditation of certification bodies and auditors more stringent and credible. Consumer International had spelt out eight basic consumer rights which include ‘ Right to satisfaction of basic needs’. This is possible only when they are vocal. ‘Right to Representation’. It is evident from the experience that the real challenge lies in accepting and honoring the rights of the consumers in letter and spirit and educating them about the same. HACCP and ISO 22000 were found no longer commanding respect and premium among the consumers. consultative committees so that their views are heard and reflected in the policies. Government must on its part provide due representation to consumer organizations in the regulatory bodies. The content coupled with the reach helped in launching some sort of nationwide consumer movement. Certification had become more of a commercial venture rather than an earnest professional endeavor to bring in a perceptible improvement in the prevailing food safety and hygiene situation. Alert and organized consumers are essential for affecting a food safety chain reaction and turning it into a mass movement.
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