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THE NEWS

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare inaugurated the first-ever World Food Safety Day being celebrated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

KEY-HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY:

  • Theme: The theme for this day was ‘food safety, everyone’s business.
  • At the function, the Ministry felicitated seven leading States/UTs based on the ranking for the year 2018-2019 for their impressive performance.
  • These were Chandigarh, Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
  • The other major initiative launched at the event includes the following:

Raman 1.0:

  • The Health Ministry launched a new-age, hand-held battery operated device called ‘Raman 1.0’.
  • This device performs rapid detection (in less than 1 minute) of economically driven adulteration in edible oils, fats, and ghee.
  • The equipment tests more than 250 samples per battery charge, collects and stores data on the cloud using a smart device.
  • This is the first of 19 such equipment and methods that have been provisionally approved by FSSAI for strengthening the food testing infrastructure in the country.

Food Safety Magic Box:

  • An innovative solution to take food safety to schools called the ‘Food Safety Magic Box’ was also launched at the event.
  • This do-it-yourself food testing kit comprises a manual and equipment to check for food adulterants, which schoolchildren can use in their classroom laboratories.

FIRST STATE FOOD SAFETY INDEX:

  • In an effort to galvanize states to work towards ensuring safe food for citizens, FSSAI has developed the first State Food Safety Index (SFSI) to measure the performance of States on five parameters of food safety.
  • The categories included:
    • Human Resources and Institutional Arrangements
    • Compliance
    • Food Testing- Infrastructure and Surveillance
    • Training and Capacity Building
    • Consumer Empowerment.
  • States such as Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh followed close behind.

BACKGROUND:

  • In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly decided to celebrate first-ever World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2019 under the theme “Food Safety, everyone’s business”.
  • Food safety is a key to achieving several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Through the World Food Safety Day, WHO pursues its efforts to mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases worldwide.
  • On 7 June, the United Nations will observe the inaugural World Food Safety Day to strengthen efforts to ensure the food we eat is safe, it’s important to see to it that foods with excess fat, sugar, and salt are better regulated.

WHAT IS FOOD SAFETY?

  • Food safety is handling, preparing and storing food in a way to best reduce the risk of individuals from becoming sick from foodborne illness.
  • These substances include micro-organisms, pesticide residue, or antibiotics, none of which are visible to the naked eye.

WHAT FOOD MATTERS?

  • Hypertension: In India, around 41 percent of women and 58 percent of men have hypertension or are pre-hypertensive. Emerging hypertension is strongly associated with high Body Mass Index (BMI) and salt intake.
  • Cardiovascular disease & obesity: Cardiovascular diseases contributed 28.1 percent to the total deaths in 2016, which is almost double in 1990, and obesity/overweight levels are 31 percent in urban areas.
  • Premature deaths: Unhealthy food is responsible for more premature deaths than tobacco, high blood pressure, or any other health risk.
  • Non-communicable diseases: If fat, sugar, and salt are consumed in excess, it increases the threat of non-communicable diseases more than infectious, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases combined.

WHAT’S DETERIORATING THE SITUATION?

Declaration not mandatory:

  • In India, at present, declaring the amount of salt/sodium, added sugar, dietary fiber, saturated fatty acids, and trans-fatty acids is not mandatory unless a claim is made.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) draft labeling regulations (April 2018) does talk about a declaration of salt labeling and front-of-pack (FOP) labeling.

Less restrictive trans-fat policy:

  • The World Health Organization rates India’s trans-fat limits policy as “less restrictive”.
  • The existing regulation of FSSAI says the maximum limit of trans-fat should not be more than 5 percent by weight in interesterified vegetable fat/oil, bakery and industrial margarine, vanaspati and bakery shortening.

WHAT’S NEEDS TO BE DONE?

  • Mandatory regulations: With making labeling regulations mandatory, regulators must also ensure that consumers are well informed to make the right choice.
  • Consumer awareness: Consumer needs to be well aware. The Front-of-Pack (FOP) labels can be extremely useful in making informed decisions before buying a product, especially if these are image-based with limited text.
  • Restriction on junk food: Besides, there is a need to restrict junk food availability in schools and other important areas by enforcing FSSAI guidelines, which are still recommendatory since February 2018.
  • Hit on trans-fat: Another demon that needs to be hit hard is ‘trans-fat’. The World Health Organization (WHO) targets to eliminate trans-fats by 2023 and India has also adopted mandatory trans-fatty acids limits. To contain the looming threat of non-communicable diseases through trans fats, it must be eliminated from the food supply.

HOW THIS INITIATIVE WILL BENEFIT?

  • Tackling the threat to food safety: This latest initiative by the UN aims to tackle the hazards presented by these threats to food safety that could result in food and water-borne diseases.
  • Completing the goals: The initiative links to the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the UN, particularly the following:
    • Goal 2: to end hunger, all forms of malnutrition, and double agricultural productivity
    • Goal 3: to prevent diseases and improve health and wellbeing for all
    • Goal 12: to move towards sustainable practices of consumption and production
    • Goal 17: strengthen global partnerships (including trade laws) to grow sustainably
  • A platform for collective actions: Marking an international day to shed light on food safety will give the countries a platform to raise awareness on a global scale, but also inspire collective action on the issue as effectively as possible.

CONCLUSION:

To conclude, over the past decade Indian have become more affluent, more urbanized but the easy availability of convenience foods has led to irregular meals and frequent snacking on fast foods instead of a healthy one. These diet changes are putting the country at higher risk for deadly diseases. Furthermore, one major reason why India facing food problems, is due to its health food sector as not much innovation has taken place until now. To improve the situation, the FSSAI must notify the draft labeling law soon. India needs to change its image of a country where hypertension and heart disease are a household phenomenon.

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