Thanks to Maggi, India will finally have food recall regulations
The rules have been in the making for almost five years, but the row over the instant noodles has hastened the process.
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After a decade of having a food safety and standards law, India is finally going to enforce food recall regulations.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has published draft food recall rules - the Food Safety and Standards (Food Recall Procedure) Regulations, 2015 – under the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
The food recall rules have been in the making for almost five years, but the Maggi row seems to have forced the food regulator to hasten the process. The news about lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the instant noodles in Uttar Pradesh broke on May 6, while the authority made the draft regulation public on its website on May 29, though the gazette notification is dated April 22. The public can offer objections or suggestions on these rules till August 1.
Till now, the food regulator did not have a formal framework to order the recall of any food product if it was found to be unsafe for public consumption or posed a threat to the health of consumers. The new regulation empowers the state food authority or the commissioner of food safety to direct any food company engaged in manufacturing, import and wholesale supply or distribution to recall a product from the market if it is found to be unsafe and if the food company does not initiate a recall on its own.
Food companies will now be required to initiate a recall process to protect public health from food that is unsafe for the consumer. It could be a result of reports or complaints from consumers or those referred by wholesalers, retailers, consumers, media or government agencies. Such complaints shall be reviewed by the food authority prior to a "recall classification" or "initiation of recall" in consultation with the food company.
Companies whose products are found unsafe will have to submit a "recall plan" to the respective food authority, with all relevant information including those on the disposal of the recalled product, taking into account the result of health hazard evaluation or classification and other factors. Companies recalling a product will have to inform consumers in the affected area about the recall, giving all necessary information such as the contaminant found and the reason for recall, outlets where the recalled product was found and a contact number for queries.
India’s food regulatory agencies have always been in a catch up mode. After the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) expose about pesticides in aerated drinks and bottled water, agencies developed and enforced permissible limits for pesticide residue. Once antibiotic traces were found in honey by the CSE a couple of years ago, FSSAI notified regulations on this.