Guess how much more the Governments of the UK, US and Canada spend per capita on food safety compared to India. 100 times, 250 times, and 1000 times more, respectively!!
Is it not criminal negligence on the part of the Government of India to deny adequate budgets and funding to the FSSAI, despite the fact that India has amongst the world’s highest rates of food borne diseases?
The FSSAI is so poorly funded that over 80 percent of the eateries in India are unlicensed and, even if they were licensed, the FSSAI has no manpower or technology to periodically inspect these eateries and declare them safe.
Most of these eateries are in the unorganised sector, and their food is unsafe for public consumption. Most do not have safe sources of water. They do not adequately protect their food from dust and airborne pathogens. They do not follow safe food handling practices. The ingredients used are often of poor quality or are adulterated. Storage temperatures and technology are often incorrect.
Hundreds of thousands of people in India get food borne diseases almost every single day. Hundreds of thousands die every year from diseases caused by contaminated food or water.
Why is our government not prioritising the safety of food sold by these eateries, whether large or small?
To avoid unnecessarily harassing small eateries, and the start of a license permit based ‘inspector raj’, the FSSAI could adopt some smart methods that will solve 90 percent of the problem without much additional budgetary allocations.
For example – An RO filter serviced and certified by an FSSAI empaneled manufacturer for all water that goes into the eatery. Whether for washing or cooking or drinking. This will take away the responsibility to check and certify from the FSSAI and move it to the retailer and manufacturer. It will also take away the need to inspect the segregation of water sources within the eatery.
They can also mandate that uncovered food cannot be sold. A mesh covering must be mandatory to keep off dust and flies, and a violation could be an offence that can carry a heavy fine from local government or law enforcement. The revenue generated could go to local government and local police, and they already have feet on the street everywhere.
We require the Government to be more responsible towards the health and well being of the people by increasing the FSSAI budget by at least 10 times. But we also require the FSSAI to be smarter and do some simple things to solve problems today, even with their limited resources.