Testing of food to instil confidence amongst consumers that food is safe to eat is important part of the food safety ecosystem. However, number and spread of food testing labs in the country is grossly inadequate. While, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is working towards having more food testing labs both in the public as well as private sector, it has also initiated a scheme to provide mobile units for food testing to reach out to consumers through as many touch points as possible.
These mobile units are called “Food Safety on Wheels”. Apart from conducting simple tests for common adulterants in milk, water, edible oil and other items of food of daily consumption, these mobile units would also be used for awareness building around food safety, hygiene and promoting healthy eating habits in citizens at large and for conducting training and certification programme for food handlers and supervisors in food businesses, particularly petty food businesses. In addition, these mobile units would help the field functionaries in the States to enhance their outreach and conduct surveillance activities even in far-flung areas.
50 Food Safety on Wheels (FSWs) will be provided to the States/UTs. This would not only address the issue of lack of food testing infrastructure in the remote areas but also cater to the basic analytical needs of consumers.
FSWs would be utilized for executing the functions of (i) surveillance and creating awareness regarding the food safety in remote areas in the State, large public congregations, schools and consumer organizations; (ii) transporting samples picked from remotes areas to the nearest food testing laboratory; (iii) Education of the consumers in various aspects of food safety laws and common hygiene practices; (iv) on the spot test facilities for qualitative adulteration of common food items like ghee, milk, khoya, sweets, edible oil, non-permitted food colours in various foods like namkeens, spices, prepared foods etc.
Each FSW can test >54 parameters qualitatively across 7 different food categories. In addition, each FSW has a provision for performing simple microbiological tests if the states so desire. The FSW is provided at a cost of ~ 50 lakh INR each, including a recurring grant towards Petrol, Oil, Lubricants & consumables.
It is hoped that with passage of time, services provided through these mobile units, ‘Food Safety on Wheels’ would become popular amongst all stakeholders, namely, the citizens, the consumers, the food businesses and the field functionaries of the Food Safety Departments in the States. This would help to bring about a paradigm shift in food safety ecosystem in the country.
A comprehensive and sustainable approach towards food safety and hygiene is the most imperative component to achieve a healthy and happy India. Food safety and hygiene is a shared responsibility and needs to be practiced in every aspect of a food lifecycle, from production, to manufacturing, transportation, storage and consumption. We need to have a holistic approach
where everyone come together and contributes as a stakeholder. FSSAI, in an attempt to bring the agenda of food safety and hygiene for everyone and everywhere, provides “Food Safety on
wheels” (FSW), a multipurpose vehicle which will help in dissemination of information and act as a platform for getting food safety training and food testing.
“Food Safety on wheels” can perform 3 key activities:
Food businesses needs to be trained on various procedures and best practices to be followed to ensure food safety and hygiene. FSW will become a platform for training of food businesses ensuring the widest outreach of the training program, especially in villages, towns, remote areas. This will help in reaching out to unorganised sector involved in street food vending, catering, retail and distribution, storage and transport, manufacturing, bakery, oil, packaged water, fish and seafood, meat and poultry, milk and milk products, and others along with organized food businesses.
Factors like rising inflation rate and competitive market strategies has lead many food processors to get involved in malpractices like using inferior quality raw materials or adulterate the food products providing unsafe, impure and unwholesome food to the consumers. These adulterated foods can have adverse effect on human health. Increasing instances of food adulteration in the country necessitates testing of these adulterants for the health and safety of the people. FSW is fully functional mobile laboratory, equipped with basic infrastructure for quick qualitative testing for detection of adulteration in various food commodities which can ascertain the presence or absence of specific adulterants in food sample.
Simple and easy steps can be inculcated in our daily routine to make sure that safe and nutritious food becomes a way of life. To ensure a sustainable model, FSSAI has adopted a 360* approach for citizen guidance and bring about a behavioural change in every sphere – @home, school, workplace or eating out. FSW will help in consumer education through interactive media as well as through distribution of flyers and booklets.
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