The next time you come across substandard food at your local grocery, you needn’t think there is no point in complaining. A new Act, in place from April 1, will ensure that all complaints about food will be addressed within months and won’t take years for action to be taken as is currently the scenario.Maharashtra is one of the first few states to implement the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) – 2006. Maharashtra joint commissioner (food), CB Pawar from the food and drug administration (FDA), said, "The food safety and standards Act 2006, that we are hopeful of implementing by April 1, has provisions to ensure that action taken by food officers is given a timeframe of 90 days to avoid delays. It will also equip us to recall the entire batch of food from the market, even if one of the samples with the dealer turns out to be below quality requirements."
Explaining the benefits of the newer act that will be replacing the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (1954), Pawar said, “With the prevention of food adulteration Act every case where sub-standard food is seized is sent to the judicial magistrate of the area from where it has been taken. With the new Act, only those cases are sent to the magistrate where the food falls under the ‘unsafe and injurious to health’ category.”
“In cases where the quality of the foodstuff is not harmful, but does not meet the prescribed standards either, a fine is directly imposed on the shopkeeper/trader. Around 90% of the cases fall in this category,” Pawar added. The fines imposed on culprits in these cases starts from Rs 1 lakh and goes up to Rs 10 lakh.
Another advantage of the new Act is that it provides a timeframe within which the investigation process is to be finished. According to the earlier Act, the public analyst (laboratory) report where the seized food was tested for its ingredients had a time period of 40 days to submit its report to the FDA. Under the new Act, that has been cut to 14 days, an official from the FDA said.
“After receiving the report, the adjudicating officer has to decide on the fine amount within 90 days. This will ensure that within a matter of months, 90% of the cases are disposed of. Currently, we have cases pending in courts for more than 10 years,” Pawar added.
When asked if the FDA had enough staff to ensure that the FSSA can be implemented successfully, Pawar said, “As of now we are not in a position to know if we have enough staff. However, a few months after the act is in place we will be able to tell the government if we need any extra staff.”