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Can FSSAI get its Act together? Rs 1750 crore fund mooted to boost skill, capabilities at food regulators

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Stung by industry-wide criticism over the messy handling of the Maggi controversy as well as serious inherent contradictions and ambiguities contained in the FSSA, the government is now reportedly exploring a Rs 1,750-crore proposal to strengthen central food regulator () as well as state bodies.Addressing a CII conference, Health Secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma admitted a shortage of both manpower and skill at both as well as at state food & drug departments.|

“We have formulated a scheme for that (capacity building) and that scheme was for both food and drug. The drug part has been approved by the Cabinet recently in the month of August and there is a similar proposal for the food which is likely to be approved by the competent authority soon enough,” Sharma told PTI.

The Health Ministry has reportedly already tabled a proposal for granting Rs 1,750 crore, which includes about over Rs 800 crore for the FSSAI and the remaining amount for the state food regulators.Sharma also mentioned that the FSSAI only sets standards for different food products and the implementation is done by the state governments.The states give licences and they enforce the Act and all the prosecutions, he added.In recent months, FSSAI and state food regulators have come under severe scrutiny after the ban on Maggi noodles, which was eventually overturned by the Bombay High Court. In addition, In August this year, the Supreme Court junked the FSSAI’s advisory that asked manufacturers to get clearance for products even if the ingredients were already approved or deemed safe.

After the Maggi ban, industry as well as Food Processing Minister had criticised the FSSAI.Badal had said that the FSSAI’s decision created “fear psychosis” in the food processing industry.

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In recent days, FSSAI has also been in the spotlight for targetting Patanjali Noodles marketed by holistic guru . Last month, FSSAI chairman, , said Patanjali noodles had not been approved. This came even despite a Supreme Court order in August had said FSSAI’s product approval guidelines for non-standardised food items such as noodles, pastas and macaroni had ceased to exist.

Following FSSAI’s comments, a spokesperson of Patanjali said: “We categorically state that we have followed all FSSAI rules and guidelines, and committed no violation.” Patanjali has been selling noodles under a licence for pasta. For licensing purposes, noodles and pasta are grouped together.