FSSAI likely to tone down order on mandatory testing norms

In a relief for small food business operators, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has agreed to relax its recent requirement that called for mandatory testing of products manufactured by all food business operators (FBOs).

In response to concerns expressed by activists and small religious organizations, FSSAI said it is examining options to provide minimum standards for testing in the product category in question.

“Keeping in mind the large number of offers received from stakeholders, particularly the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, which have expressed concerns such as testing costs, we are exploring options to provide the minimum parameters to be tested without compromising food,” he said. Ganesh Vishweshwar Bhat, Technical Officer (Regulatory Compliance), FSSAI.

In a response sent to the Alliance for Sustainable and Inclusive Agriculture (ASHA), he said an adjustment in the arrangement would ease the burden of religious organizations, especially with regard to test fees.

The FSSAI recently ordered all FBOs to run tests on their products and upload the results every six months. ASHA lodged a strong protest with the authority early this month, alleging that the move would cause a severe financial burden on smaller religious organizations, which do not have the financial resources to comply with the order.

Noting that the responsibility for testing food products rests with the government, he said the matter places the burden on small religious organizations. He noted that small religious organizations (With a turnover of less than Rs 12 lakhs) are only required to register with FSSAI. (Maximum production for small operators is 100 liters or kilograms per day).

However, the FSSAI said the provisions of the order are consistent with the FSSAI’s mandate to ensure the availability of safe and healthy food for human consumption.

“In order to ensure food safety by manufacturers, testing of food products at least once every six months by licensed food manufacturers has become mandatory since August 5, 2011,” the FSSAI official said in his letter.

“One of the conditions that a licensed manufacturer must meet is to ensure that relevant chemical and/or microbiological contaminants in food products are tested in accordance with these regulations as often as required,” he said.

These exams will be conducted in NABL laboratories accredited by the FSSAI at least once in six months.

He said the FSSAI order issued in January 2023 directed authorized players to follow the regulations and upload test reports to the food safety compliance system portal.

The activists responded

However, the FSSAI’s response did not enthrall the activists much. “It appears that the FSSAI has agreed to reconsider the provisions in its order. Even if they lowered the testing standards, we still believe there is no scientific basis for this order,” said one ASHA member.