Highlights of the Bill
- The Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005 consolidates eight laws governing the food sector and establishes the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) to regulate the sector.
- FSSA will be aided by several scientific panels and a central advisory committee to lay down standards for food safety. These standards will include specifications for ingredients, contaminants, pesticide residue, biological hazards and labels.
- The law will be enforced through State Commissioners of Food Safety and local level officials.
- Everyone in the food sector is required to get a licence or a registration which would be issued by local authorities.
- Every distributor is required to be able to identify any food article to its manufacturer, and every seller to its distributor. Anyone in the sector should be able to initiate recall procedures if he finds that the food sold had violated specified standards.
Key Issues and Analysis
- The organised as well as the unorganised food sectors are required to follow the same food law. The unorganised sector, such as street vendors, might have difficulty in adhering to the law, for example, with regard to specifications on ingredients, traceability and recall procedures.
- The Bill does not require any specific standards for potable water (which is usually provided by local authorities). It is the responsibility of the person preparing or manufacturing food to ensure that he uses water of adequate quality even when tap water does not meet the required safety standards.
- The Bill excludes plants prior to harvesting and animal feed from its purview. Thus, it does not control the entry of pesticides and antibiotics into the food at its source.
- The power to suspend the license of any food operator is given to a local level officer. This offers scope for harassment and corruption.
- It appears that state governments will have to bear the cost of implementing the new law. However, the financial memorandum does not estimate these costs.
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