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Food safety is the responsibility of all

Food Safety standards in India are set by the food regulator FSSAI. They also ensure that the food industry is meeting standards and carry out inspections from time to time. If food safety is to be ensured then the fines and punitive punishments must be adhered to strictly for those who add unpermitted substances and endanger the health of thousands of consumers.

Food safety is a growing concern throughout the world because of the change in environment and agricultural practices. To get higher yields farmers add hormones and antibiotics to animal feeds and this also affect consumers who eat animal products. The use of fertilizers and pesticides has made some foods unsafe as the residues in foods are above permitted levels and this is a health hazard for consumers. Food manufactures have to also understand their responsibility fully. They need to ensure that the food safety is maintained in the entire food chain right from procurement of raw material to preparation, transportation to distribution to storage and marketing.

In India there are not enough accredited food testing laboratories. Also the laboratories must understand the different testing parameters for testing heavy metals in soil and in foods. The analysis can be totally different in both. Food testing laboratories also play a key role in ensuring that food testing has been carried out scientifically by knowledgeable technicians. By presenting correct analysis and completely accurate report of food and water testing ensures food safety. There is a need for testing standards so that all the testing laboratories are conducting tests that are science based.If there are set standards for all the different kinds of pathogens, chemicals, microbial toxins, heavy metals, residues of pesticides and herbicides and fungicides, etc. food safety can be more effective.

Food safety can be assured when regular surveillance is carried out for non-packaged foods as well as fresh foods. Vegetables and fruits are often contaminated with pesticides and some vendors use unpermitted colours like malachite green on peas to make them look fresh. Unpermitted colours are also often used in sweets by sweetshop owners which can be toxic. Petty businessmen and traders many a time add bran, chalk, sawdust, sand and other extraneous matter to spices and food grains which makes the foods substandard. Mustard and other edible oil, as well as milk and milk products are regularly contaminated for financial gains. Unless this practiced is stopped by regular inspections food safety for the unaware consumer can never be guaranteed.

Consumers are equally responsible for food safety. They must ensure that they are buying products only from those retailers that have licenses and who sell standardised products. Food safety is guaranteed if packaged foods have the FSSAI logo, ISI or Agmark marking on them. Always buy foods by reading labels for ingredients and ‘Use by’ and ‘Best before date’.

Food safety is also the concern of the government which needs to carry out awareness campaigns on media especially for the not so literate consumers.

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