Rule vacuum places food buyers' health at grave risk

Rule vacuum places food buyers' health at grave risk

The FSSA Bill, which was introduced by the Centre in 2006, became an Act on August 5, 2011, replacing the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA), 1955, which earlier guided the State’s health department and food inspectors.

With the new set of guidelines to register cases yet to be framed, action against offenders, such as those who were selling an expired imported product as reported by Deccan Herald on Wednesday, is impossible.

Framing the rules, well-placed sources in the Vidhan Soudha and the BBMP said, is the first step in implementing the FSSA 2006, which is now the basis for booking any culprit tampering with food products. In the absence of the rules, the culprits go scotfree.

In Bangalore, when Deccan Herald inquired into a case of tampering with the expiry date of a food product, the authorities found it difficult to book a case against the culprits .
Although Ashwini M, the victim, lodged a complaint with the BBMP after being cheated at Spar Hypermarket’s Mantri Square outlet, the Palike cannot initiate action.

Reacting to the matter, Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said: “The Act was passed recently. We will work out the procedures and implement it soon. It cannot be left idle for too long.”

BBMP sources said that despite the law coming into force on August 5, lack of rules and regulations under the FSSA has prevented them from initiating any action against Spar Hypermarket or their vendors. “All we can do is register a complaint, nothing more,” said a food inspector.

BBMP Commissioner Siddaiah, the implementing authority for the law in Bangalore, said: “We are yet to ascertain whether the rules and regulations have been framed by the relevant departments.” Besides, even if the rules are framed and the State begins implementing the Act, lack of food inspectors will continue to hamper its efficient execution.

Currently, there are only six BBMP inspectors on deputation from the Health Department, even as the civic body  has as many as 27 positions for Food Safety Inspectors vacant for an 800-sq km jurisdiction.

“After discussions with the government, it has been agreed that the required number of inspectors will be provided in two to three months,” Siddaiah said.

He added that a recruitment drive through the KPSC is being planned.
Although there is no confirmation on whether the Palike has compromised on the required number, facts suggest that it definitely has downsized its requirement.

Last year, the Palike had requested nearly 40 inspectors from the State government only to cover the core city comprising 100 wards, but has now asked only for 27 to cover the whole of their jurisdiction, including the erstwhile CMCs.

Experts believe that the BBMP, ideally, would require at least 120 such inspectors to work efficiently in curbing adulteration of food products and achieve the desired expected results.

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