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Rediff.com  » Business » High Court questions FSSAI on food sample testing

High Court questions FSSAI on food sample testing

December 09, 2015 18:53 IST

FSSAI assured the court that all requirements under the Act shall be complied with fully and if any of the private labs make a mistake they would lose their NABL accreditation.

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday questioned the food safety and standards authority (FSSAI) why there was a disparity in the number of samples sent for testing to government labs vis-a-vis private labs.

A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva raised the query after it was told by an NGO that while lakhs of samples are sent to 68 private labs across the country, the four government-run labs only get a few thousand each.

"Why this disparity? Why not send more to government labs? Do the government labs not have the capacity? Why are you not then upscaling the capacity?" the court asked FSSAI.

NGO Lok Jagriti, represented by advocate Govind Jee, also claimed that the government-run labs were not well-equipped and even the staff there did not have the proper training.

He also sought that independent scientific panels be set up, as stipulated under the FSSA Act, for coming up with standards for food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with eatables, among others.

The authority responded that such panels are already in place. It, however, said it has no labs of its own and was dependent upon four Food Research and Standardisation Laboratories (FRSL) which were set up under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.

It also said that all the labs it used for testing were accredited with the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).

The court, thereafter, directed that anything that is prohibited under the FSSA Act and rules and regulations framed under it, but which is permitted under the Codex Alimentarius -- a collection of internationally recognised standards relating to foods, food production and food safety -- or any other global standard, would be prohibited as per Indian law.

On the disparity in number of samples sent for testing to private and government labs, the court noted that the concern raised was with regard to authenticity and reliability of the reports of private labs.

FSSAI assured the court that all requirements under the Act shall be complied with fully and if any of the private labs make a mistake they would lose their NABL accreditation.

The court noted in its order that as per a recent order of the Bombay High Court, and which was upheld by the Supreme Court, FSSAI did not have the power to issue guidelines or advisory with regard to approval of food products.

"Consequently the advisory (permitting import of food having chemicals permitted under Codex) issued on January 24, 2013, would also have no effect in law," it said.

With the directions and observations the NGO's plea was disposed of.

The NGO had in its plea raised various issues ranging from government labs not getting enough samples, lack of authencity of reports of private labs, powers of FSSAI to issue guidelines/advisories. 

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