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Rs 45 crore outlay on food analysis facility in Gujarat, states Koshia

The government of Gujarat has spent approximately Rs 45 crore to establish a state-of-the-art facility for the analysis of food samples in Dethli, a village in Patan District, according to state Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) commissioner H G Koshia, who added that the facility would be operational a few months from now.

“The responsibility of the state food safety commissioners is not only to combat adulteration, but also to carry out surveillance of food and food manufacturing units, to impart training to the stakeholders, to create public awareness, and to see that an effective and transparent system of monitoring the quality of food is implemented in the respective state,” he added.

“Gujarat has started mobile testing vans equipped with primary testing kits and other instruments to conduct on-the-spot testing of food available in the state. We also have conducted over 50 training programmes for various stakeholders and created videos and jingles for public awareness,” Koshia said.

“Our laboratories undergo constant upgradation, are equipped with high-end instruments and use information technology. We have started a toll-free number and a portal, where consumers can register any complaint regarding the quality of food,” the Gujarat FDCA commissioner stated.

“With the help of the National Institute of Smart Government (NISG) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Gujarat FDCA has effectively launched the online licensing and registration system for food business operators (FBO),” he said.

“We also have conducted training programmes for that. Since FBO are very large in numbers and it is a highly-unorganised sector, the online licensing system is very beneficial to the FBO,” Koshia added.

He stated that e-governance was very much beneficial to the FDCA for its activities, which include monitoring the work of food safety officers (FSO), setting up laboratories, ensuring the effective working of the licensing and registration system, and conducting effective surveillance of food commodities.

“When we brought the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006, into effect on August 5, 2011, the number of FSO was in two digits, but today, Gujarat has 261 FSO, and every year, the government sanctions 25 posts of FSO,” Koshia informed.

“At the ratio of 2:1, the posts of analysts are being sanctioned. Definitely with more manpower, Gujarat FDCA would work more effectively to regulate the quality of food manufactured and available in the state,” he added.

“The first step I took was to strengthen my department with manpower, because without sufficient manpower it is very difficult to work effectively. We simultaneously started strengthening the infrastructure and supported the municipal corporation-run labs financially to upgrade their facilities, by providing a transport system and mobile testing vans and creating and effectively using primary testing kits,” Koshia said.

“The third step I took is conducting training programmes with the stakeholders of Gujarat, like various manufacturing associations, FSO, designated officers (DO), adjuciating officers (AO), APP and judges,” he added.

“Parallel activity was to generate public awareness by starting a toll-free number, video films, advertisements in electronic media and print media. The food industry of Gujarat itself is law-abiding, and they are ahead in using technology,” Koshia informed.

“So initially they might have started the food business by using traditional techniques which may have led to unsafe food, but now the majority of the food industry, and FBO use modern technology, which not only make the food safe, but also increase its shelf-life more and raise the industry,” he stated.

“To be frank, except failing the samples taken by FSO, we have not taken steps to improve the quality of labels and force all the manufacturers and FBOs to label their food according to the new law, but we will definitely take up this issue effectively,” Koshia added.
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