Govt urges states to strengthen food testing labs

The Union Health Minister, Mr J P Nadda presided over the ‘First Health Ministers Roundtable on Food Safety & Nutrition’

The Union Health Minister, J P Nadda released framework for ‘Clean Street Food Hubs’ and ‘Safe and Hygienic Food Festivals’ at the Health Ministers' Meet. The Minister also released FSSAI’s ‘Healthy India Food Calendar’

New Delhi: “Central Government is providing support to the tune of Rs 482 crore for the States. As many as 45 State labs are to be strengthened. I request the States to come forward with the proposals or give us the plan for strengthening the laboratories.” This was stated by Mr J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare as he presided over the ‘First Health Ministers Roundtable on Food Safety & Nutrition’ organized by FSSAI, on 9th January at New Delhi.

Mr Nadda further stated that finance will not be a constraint and each State should have at least one government food laboratory of high quality with bigger States having at least two.

Speaking on the enforcement of food standards, Mr Nadda said that there should be fairness and transparency in enforcement. “We must safeguard public health by ensuring all food businesses are licensed and follow standards. At the same time, we should be careful that it does not put unnecessary regulatory burden on the food businesses”, Mr Nadda said.

Emphasizing on generating awareness, Mr Nadda said that sensitization is a major area to work for and FSSAI can provide support in this so that people opt for self-regulation.

Speaking at the function, Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS (Health) stated that promoting and building the mechanisms for availability and consumption of Safe & Nutritious Food is central to attainment of the goals laid out in the National Health Policy 2017 which focuses on “promotive and preventive health care” and targets to reduce disease burden and premature mortality through Non-Communicable Disease like Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases among others. He further said that carrying out IEC and outreach efforts to create awareness in people about safe food & nutrition at schools, workplace, etc is central to avoiding food borne disease related morbidity & mortality and consequent savings in healthcare.

Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary (Health) assured support to the States through NHM. She further stated that we all aware of the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases in our country. Promoting healthy dietary habits amongst citizens is a key step to address it. “We must work together to inspire greater public confidence about food and nudge people to eat safe and eat right so that we can a healthier nation”, she stated.

During the round table, a team of researchers, who have carried out a rapid assessment of economic costs of food borne diseases in India, shared their findings. According to them, food borne diseases impose a huge economic burden on India. As per their estimates, this would amount to as much as 0.5 percent of India’s GDP or about 28 billion USD.

The Health Ministers assured to work towards creating a culture of self-compliance amongst food businesses by helping them build internal capacities, focus on third party audit, making enforcement transparent, standardized, predictable and fair by adopting a digital compliance platform, encouraging rating and fair competition amongst food businesses. States agreed to strengthen the food safety machinery and the state food lab system in their respective States.

Also present at the Roundtable were State Health Secretaries and Food Safety Commissioners from the States, Senior officials from Ministry of HRD, Health and Family Welfare and Women and Child Development, FSSAI, industry associations, World Bank, WHO and World Food Programme, and development partners such as Tata Trusts, GAIN and PATH participated.