The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will invest an estimated Rs482 crore in a major scheme for strengthening food testing infrastructure in the country. The decision comes in the wake of the recent observations by the Mumbai High Court regarding the urgent need to upgrade food testing laboratories in India.
The empowered committee constituted for implementing this scheme, which has representatives from the various ministries such as the ministry of health and family welfare, ministry of food processing industries, export inspection council, NABL and seven states/union territories, held its first meeting on 2 November 2016 in New Delhi.
The meeting considered proposals from 7 states/UTs, namely, Goa, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Punjab, for strengthening their food testing infrastructure. Two proposals, from Chandigarh (Punjab) and Calicut (Kerala), were approved in principle. The other states were requested to revise and resubmit their proposals according to the scheme guidelines with mentorship support from FSSAI.
The committee also approved the proposal for strengthening the Referral Food Laboratory at Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI) through provision of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.
Under this scheme, 45 state / UT food testing labs (at least one in each state / UT with a provision of two labs in larger states) and 14 Referral Food Testing labs will be upgraded to enable them to obtain NABL accreditation. It is also planned to establish 62 mobile testing labs across all states/UTs. There are currently four mobile food testing labs in Punjab, Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which will serve as a model for these mobile testing labs.
Introduction of these facilities would significantly enhance the testing capability of CFTRI for adulteration of honey and pesticide and antibiotic residues in food samples.
Capacity building of the food testing labs is also an important component of this scheme. In addition, a school food and hygiene programme has been envisaged under which basic food testing labs will be set up in 1,500 schools/colleges across the country to promote a culture of safe and wholesome food.