With an aim to reduce inspector raj, excise inspectors will soon double up as food inspectors. In a first of its kind decision aimed to reduce bureaucratic intervention , FSSAI has asked state chief secretaries to empower excise commissioners to also hold powers of food inspectors. However, initially the idea will be applicable over alcoholic drinks category, a segment that sees high instances of adulteration.
Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI in his letter dated April 8, has asked states, to delegate powers of a food safety officer to excise commissioners which will reduce the number of inspection trips from various officials. Confirming the development to HT, Agarwal said, “This is not only going to reduce the inspector raj at the ground level but it will also help us to keep a close watch at the retail outlets more frequently.”
The step is also aimed at bringing synergies in the functioning of both departments and to avoid duplication of work.
The removal of one layer of inspection will be a big relief for retailers, otherwise bothered by several rounds of inspections.
However, it doesn’t mean that safety standards will be compromised. Before giving the dual charge the inspector’s qualification will be checked, said FSSAI chief.
“The notification of excise inspectors as food safety officers would be contingent on their possessing the educational qualifications. They would continue to work as excise inspectors for their work to implement the excise policy and be responsible to the office of Excise commissioner of state,” said the letter written by Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI. Copy of letter is available is with HT.
A food safety officer is responsible for verifying valid licenses of alcohol retailers and testing samples for ensuring safety standards are maintained. Whereas, an excise inspector has the duty to keep a check on the stocks maintained by the seller and to check tax compliance.
According to NSSO’s 2011-12 consumption data, splits per capita weekly consumption of alcohol into four categories – toddy, country liquor, beer and foreign/ refined liquor or wine. The average rural Indian consumes 220 ml of drinks across types of alcohol in a week, or 11.4 litres in a year. Toddy is the most popular drink for rural India followed by country liquor. The average urban Indian, meanwhile, drinks 96 ml per week or 5 litres in a year, country liquor being most popular.