Government to invest ₹20 crores on indigenous food testing kits – Livemint

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In a major push to make in India initiative, country’s apex food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will invest over 20 crores in indigenous food testing kits.

FSSAI has so far approved 30 rapid food testing kits and devices under the recently finalized regulations for approval of these items and methods that aim to strengthen the food testing ecosystem in the country. Interestingly, only two out of 30 rapid kits and devices are indigenously manufactured and rest are imported, despite many research and scientific institutions in India engaged in development of such kits and devices.

“FSSAI has initiated steps so that indigenously developed kits and devices are validated and approved under the FSSAI regulations on a fast track basis. We would spend over Rs. 20 crore and procure rapid food testing kits and devices,” said Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI.

“There is a market potential of Rs. 1000 crore for such kits and devices in India alone. Once, such kits and devices are widely used for regulatory purposes; food industry would also begin to use them for internal quality assurance and quality control purposes,” he said.

According to the apex food regulator, the kits and devices would be provided to field officers through the State governments. Various States would also buy such kits and devices from the Government e marketplace (GeM) portal to make them widely available with the enforcement officials.

“The devices ensuring “faster, better, cheaper” real-time testing of food will soon become an integral part of quality assurance and quality control programs in the food industry and also for regulatory and surveillance purposes in 2020,” said Agarwal.

FSSAI has already started providing these kits and devices to the State Governments for use by field officers to get quicker and validated results for tests conducted on different food products such as milk and edible oils, among others.

“Steps have been initiated to make these available on government eProcurement marketplace (GeM) portal so that further procurements can be made by Governments, local bodies on their own. FSSAI has invested over Rs. 5 crore on this so far,” said Agarwal.

With its own admission, the FSSAI has said that at least 10 states in India are unequipped to ensure food safety, owing to scarcity of staff and food testing laboratory infrastructure. Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Telengana, and Uttarakhand are the worst performing states on food safety according to FSSAI.

The FSSAI analysed a total of 106,459 samples across the country and found over 15.8% food samples as sub-standard, 3.7 % unsafe and 9% mislabelled during the year 2018-19.

Food borne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group of the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified 31 food borne hazards. In its first estimates of the incidence, mortality, and disease burden, this group has found that the global burden of food borne diseases (FBD) is comparable to those of the major infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The most frequent causes of foodborne illness were diarrheal disease agents, particularly norovirus and Campylobacter spp. Diarrheal disease agents, especially non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica, were also responsible for the majority of deaths due to FBD. Other major causes of FBD deaths were Salmonella Typhi, Taenia solium and Hepatitis-A virus.

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