Target: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)
Goal: Improve food safety laws and enforcement to protect consumers
In India, decades of economic growth and farmers struggling to make a profit in the face of rising food prices have resulted in inadequate food safety standards, with 13 percent of the country’s total food supply prone to contamination. According to Reuters, “Safety standards have struggled to keep pace in a country that still has more poor than anywhere else in the world and where modern supermarkets remain relatively rare.” This petition demands that government leaders in India reform food safety laws on all levels of the supply chain to protect consumers.
Weak implementation of laws, lack of enforcement for safety standards, and poorly staffed regulatory authorities have led to catastrophic incidents such as vegetables tainted with rat poison and fatal batches of illegal liquor killing hundreds and hospitalizing thousands. The FSSAI found that the majority of the country’s milk is diluted with products used to thicken and improve the appearance of the milk, such as fertilizer, bleach and detergent.
According to a report by SGS, an independent food inspection service, India’s supply chain is both “long and low-tech,” which increases the likelihood of food sustaining damage and contamination before delivery. This food chain is characterized by substantial waste and decreased market value of food before it reaches retailers and consumers. Large quantities of produce in local markets must travel great distances, resulting in up to 40 percent of perishable food rotting before it arrives for merchants to sell.
Merchants cut corners by purchasing unripe fruit and then applying calcium carbide, a carcinogen, to expedite the ripening process. Already rotten fruit is often disguised by being dipped in artificial colors. Although the use of calcium carbide has been banned, traders acknowledge that the practice is still common due to lack of enforcement. Food that is sourced from hundreds of miles away faces exposure to numerous facilities and consequently a high risk of infection by pathogens. Many facilities lack resources to provide the expected standards for safe hygiene and handling conditions. Monitoring of hygiene measures is difficult due to little coordination throughout the country.
Immediate action is needed to repair this highly fragmented and inefficient system. Advancements in technology must be leveraged to allow for timely and widespread circulation of information about contaminations and food recalls. All levels of the supply chain, from farmers to manufacturers and retailers should work together to more efficiently enforce food safety policies. Temperature-controlled facilities such as refrigerated trucks would preserve food supplies on long trips.
Biraj Patnaik, an adviser to India’s Supreme Court, refers to the issue of food wastage as, “Criminal neglect on the part of the government.” Patnaik proposes that cutting down food waste is the ultimate solution to ensuring affordable food prices and increasing food access for the poor.
India is making strides to overcome poor food safety by implementing safety standards on street food for the first time, as well as adopting new food packaging requirements. However, a comprehensive reform is needed to protect consumers from contaminated food and toxic chemicals. As the agency responsible for enforcement of food safety regulations in India, the FSSAI must address this issue by increasing audits, inspections, and training programs to improve standards and create a modernized, comprehensive, and cost-effective system to guarantee food safety in India.
Dear Members of the FSSAI,
Inadequate laws and enforcement of food safety regulations in India have created a highly toxic and ineffective system for providing food that is safe, nutritious, and accessible to all. We demand you prioritize the safety of India’s consumers and improve food safety standards and regulations.
The use of cancer causing chemicals on produce and contamination of milk with chemical additives has become common practice due to weak and fragmented standards for food safety and lack of enforcement across the supply chain. Incidents of food contamination have injured and killed thousands and will result in serious illnesses for many in the future. Food waste from produce being transported great distances is a significant barrier to affordable food prices for India’s poor.
Advancements in technology are needed to modernize safety standards and create a more transparent and efficient system to ensure food safety. It’s imperative that your agency rises to the occasion and meets the challenge of passing and enforcing food safety regulations to safely feed a growing population in India.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Bombay-Market via Wikimedia Commons