India’s comprehensive new food safety rules, approved five years ago, are finally taking effect this

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Eating bhel puri on the street will hopefully become safer, starting Friday.

India’s comprehensive new food safety rules, approved five years ago, are finally taking effect this week.

These new rules and standards make it mandatory for street food vendors to register with state health departments, which are charged with policing hygiene.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, an autonomous body under the health ministry, will oversee the new rules that will regulate manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import of food items.

The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 was adopted by the Indian parliament that year, but it requires so much more testing than is currently underway that industry bodies have delayed it for years through repeatedly raising concerns that there weren’t enough testing facilities in India to implement the well-intentioned legislation.

To try to ensure India has the capacity to implement the new law, the government has increased the number of state laboratories for testing eatables and appointed more food safety officers to check food quality and hygiene instead of merely monitoring adulteration, experts interviewed said.

The new food rules will replace the previous Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954 and also integrate all existing food laws in the country, V.N. Gaur, chief executive officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said in an interview.

Under the old legislation, India’s food sector has been governed by eight separate food laws for meat, milk, edible oil, fruits and vegetables.

The new legislation, notified in the Gazette of India on May 5, says it covers all food articles, “whether processed, or unprocessed, genetically modified or engineered, infant food, packaged drinking water, alcoholic drink, chewing gum, but does not include any animal feed, live animals unless they are prepared or processed for placing on the market for human consumption, plants, prior to harvesting, drugs and medicinal products, cosmetics, narcotic or psychotropic substances.”

In addition to state governments, the central government, civic bodies and village councils will be in charge of implementing the new food law.

The new legislation requires the food authority to issue licenses to food vendors only after ensuring their products are safe and hygienic. Those whose products are judged unhygienic or unsafe will face monetary penalties.

Experts say the new regulations aim not only to protect consumers from contamination and poor hygiene, but also from chronic diseases by establishing parameters for acceptable fat content.

The new law is comprehensive in the range of food products covered and in holding farmers and manufacturers responsible for problems detected, experts say.

“The law will regulate production of food from farm to fork,” said Vinay Oswal, director at National Agriculture and Food Analysis and Research Institute, based in the city of Pune in Maharashtra.

By testing agricultural produce being sold by farmers, government testers will make sure it isn’t contaminating food at the next step in the food processing chain—the processing units, he said.

Food operators and their suppliers will be also be held accountable for the quality of the agricultural produce they use and for following hygienic procedures for processing, storing, supplying and purchasing food, Mr. Oswal said.

In addition, the new regulations require the government to test imported food, in this way ensuring food products coming into the country are safe, he said.

“It will prevent India from becoming a dumping ground,” Mr. Oswal said.

The All India Food Processors’ Association, an industry group, has expressed some concerns about whether the systems to implement the new law are ready for prime time.

“We have taken up our objections with the food safety body and hope to sort out soon,” D.V. Malhan, executive secretary of the industry body told India Real Time.

Still, he expressed hope about the potential of the new legislation.

“Despite all bottlenecks, the law will definitely strengthen ability of regulators and government to deal with food contamination incidents,” he added

Food Laws Aim to Make Eating Out Safe - India Real Time - WSJ
Hopes and dreams. I'll eat my own hat if I ever see Guptaji, my local bhelpuriwaala, displaying a heath & safety certificate.