Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the FSSAI’s National Food Laboratory, and laid the foundation stone of the FSSAI Tower at Ghaziabad to coincide with the 13th anniversary of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey also participated in the function that was attended by over 300 partners and stakeholders from the scientific community, food businesses and corporates.
NFL, Delhi NCR is one of the two premier referral laboratories under the direct administrative control of FSSAI. The laboratory in Kolkata is also being upgraded. This national lab is a result of a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP), the first-of-its-kind in the food laboratory sector. It houses state-of-the-art collaborative training centers, namely, The Food Safety Solution Centre (FSSC) and the Centre for Microbiological Analysis Training (C-MAT). NFL-Delhi, NCR symbolizes the synchronization of policy-driven partnerships and collaboration with a holistic approach and a futuristic vision. The lab has a comprehensive array of equipment with the latest technologies and facilities to conduct analysis as per global accreditation standards for testing and calibration. FSSAI will also be establishing NFLs at Mumbai and Chennai in the near future along the same lines.
Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan remarked, “For an effective regulatory food environment, a robust food testing ecosystem is important. This is essential to evaluate the quality and safety of food, their compliance to standards and also to identify any emerging risks from farm to fork”. He further added, “FSSAI’s initiatives towards this goal are truly commendable. I congratulate FSSAI for completion of 13 years of its existence and it is a landmark day for all of us because this institution has played a significant role in ensuring the health of our citizens through the availability of safe food. The contribution of FSSAI is visible everywhere and this scientific ecosystem backed by advanced food-testing infrastructure is a testimony of today’s towering success.”
The FSSAI Tower, co-located at this place, has been planned to accommodate FSSAI’s growing staff numbers. The Central Government has recently created 493 new posts for FSSAI, bringing the overall strength of FSSAI to 824 now. The new facility would also host visiting faculty and trainee officers during training and conferences. Other facilities include a cafeteria, day-care center, fitness center, conference hall, and training center. This 8-floor tower with adequate parking facilities shall further augment the capabilities of FSSAI and its National Food Laboratory.
In his keynote address the Minister of State, Ashwini Kumar Choubey said, “This Public-Private-Partnership in the food testing ecosystem will synergize the efficiency of the private sector and the regulatory control of the Government in an efficient manner. I have full confidence in the success of this partnership and hope to see more such collaborations for other laboratories in the country. This advanced food-testing infrastructure will also help us fight any instances of food adulteration and will become more robust in the years to come.”
In the past few years, FSSAI has taken various steps to create and invest in an effective food-testing ecosystem in the country. With a robust system to recognize and notify laboratories in place, currently, there is a network of 261 food-testing laboratories, which has almost doubled from 138 in 2014. The Indian Food Laboratory Network (InFoLNet) has been created as a one-stop virtual-hub for the transparent flow of laboratory information.
FSSAI has also launched ‘Food Safety on Wheels’ (FSW), a mobile food testing lab for testing, awareness, and training. This first-of-its-kind, innovative van will take food testing infrastructure to remote villages and far-flung areas, thus, instilling confidence among citizens. There are 44 FSWs currently, which are expected to cross 500 in the coming years.
FSSAI has been investing in strengthening state and referral labs with advanced equipment, microbiological testing facilities, apart from capacity building activities for all the laboratory personnel. Several of these referral laboratories have been recognized as National Reference Laboratories, 14 of which were awarded Certificates of Recognition at the event.
Through general and specialized training by FSSAI on good laboratory practices, over 1500 laboratory personnel have been trained in the last three years. The Authority has also streamlined the conduct of examinations to qualify Food Analysts increasing their number from 48 in 2014 to 360 currently. In order to encourage young professionals to choose food analysis as a career option, FSSAI has established a system of conducting the Junior Analyst Examination since 2017 with 250 qualified Junior Analysts available across the country today.
FSSAI has also been harmonizing testing protocols for reliable and reproducible testing supported by the Scientific Panel and Method Review Group that have been set up. Thus far, 15 Manuals of Methods have been finalized. Moreover, a system has been operationalized to consider and approve the tools (kit, equipment or method) that allow rapid, accurate and efficient food testing (RAFT-Rapid Analysis in Food Testing). This is the first of its kind in terms of regulatory provisioning to make real-time decisions on food safety issues. The Authority is further envisaging an effective sample management system involving handy sampling tools and devices. This is to ensure an efficient flow of samples from the field to the laboratory without compromising the sample integrity.
As yet another example of synergistic partnership, the International Training Centre-Food Safety Analysis and Applied Nutrition (ITC-FSAN) has been created at Mumbai in collaboration with Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) & Export Inspection Council (EIC) as a regional laboratory capacity building and training hub.
In her welcome address Chairperson, FSSAI, Rita Teaotia, observed“ FSSAI has demonstrated that effective policies, partnerships, and proficiency lead to a credible and efficient food testing ecosystem that inspires trust in the food we eat. I am happy to see that FSSAI has launched several initiatives from sophisticated to a basic level in the area of food testing with tremendous support from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and various stakeholders.”
FSSAI has made strategic and smart investments in outreach activities to engage and empower citizens. The DART Book and the Food Safety Magic Box have been developed to enable citizens to test common food adulterants at home and in school laboratories respectively. These are being converted into short videos for mass dissemination.
CEO, FSSAI, Pawan Agarwal highlighted, “This is a landmark occasion for FSSAI as today we have commemorated the 13th anniversary of FSS Act, 2006. Over the past 7-8 years, the Authority has transformed the food safety ecosystem in the country with the support of our stakeholders. NFL-Delhi, NCR is one of the most advanced laboratories in the country and is at par with any other laboratory in advanced countries like the USA. Today India can proudly boast of one of the finest networks of laboratory systems and emerging as a hub of food testing ecosystem in Asia.” He further added, “Initiatives like the Food Safety Magic Box enhance engagement and build scientific temper to unleash creative potential among students through simple and fun experiments around food. We plan to make these Magic Boxes available across Health and Wellness Centres and are hopeful for the support of the Health Ministry.”