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Huge Economic Benefit Of Investing In Food Safety: Martien Van Nieuwkoop, Director, Agriculture, World Bank

"We are conducting a study on the economics of food safety in India. There has been great progress in India with respect to ease of doing business, but food safety is not explicitly included in the rankings of ease of doing business," Martien Van Nieuwkoop, Director of Agriculture, World Bank

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At the plenary session on ‘One Nation, One Food Law- Enabling Regulatory Environment for Investment in the Food Sector’ at World Food India 2017, there was focus on the enormous amount of work done by the food regulatory body, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as well as how India can match up to global standards when it comes to food safety and the economic benefits of investing in food safety.

Speaking about the existing regulations in India, Avinash Srivastava, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India, said, “India has many instruments for consumer protection, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (under revision), Legal Metrology Act, 2009, Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016, Essential Commodities Act, 1955, Price Monitoring of essential commodities and price stabilisation fund. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is a three-tier quasi-judicial mechanism established to provide simple, timely and inexpensive justice. We have a National Consumer Helpline, which is an alternate system through which the companies resolve consumer grievances in a timely manner.” He also added, “The Department of Consumer Affairs and FSSAI agreed to harmonize the provisions of Packaged Commodities Rules and FSS regulations. The way forward there should be institutionalized sharing of information between BIS and FSSAI, Complementary utilization of infrastructure between BIS and FSSAI. There are 22 essential food items collected and monitored daily as per the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.”

Regarding the economic rationale of investing in food safety, Martien Van Nieuwkoop, Director of Agriculture, World Bank, said, “Private investments are driven by economic rationale. So what actually is economic rationale when enabling a regulatory environment for food safety in India? We are conducting a study on the economics of food safety in India. There has been great progress in India with respect to ease of doing business, but food safety is not explicitly included in the rankings of ease of doing business. Our estimate, our conservative estimate, is that 100 million cases of foodborne diseases occur in India.” He also went on to add about the economic benefit of investing in food safety, saying that, “Our estimate is that there will be an increase of 28 billion dollars to the GDP of India if there are adequate food safety regulations. So the economic benefit of investing in food safety is very high. There has to be certainty provided for the private sector to invest. Given the huge potential of food processing industry, a critical element is that FSSAI provides a supportive, as well as a critical role to support it. There is a strong economic case to accelerate investments in food safety.”

Dr. Kenneth Petersen, Senior Vice President (Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs), OSI International LLC, said, “Industry is responsible for producing safe food. Government is responsible for protecting public health. The first importance response is protection. I would encourage on focusing on outcomes, not the process. The industry must be given a chance to comply. Enforcement is a government activity, if you can’t comply, you should be subjected to enforcement. Not everything needs to have a standard attached to it. We heard about product testing, we expect India should have global standards of excellence for laboratory capability.” Petersen also added, “Data collection by the government is critical. We heard earlier about the equity of investment and the appeals process, but there should be a hierarchical appeals process. Media transparency from the government is critical. You have to give confidence to the public that you know what you are doing. Internal and external audit mechanisms are critical. It’s all about India engaging in the global markets through exports and imports, leading discussions, leveraging modern information so India is looked upon as a leader by the global community.”

“The Indian regulation has many more specification standards as compared to Europe. We focus more on horizontal standards/regulation in Europe because is easier for innovations to rise in food businesses”, said Knud Ostergaard, Head of Department, Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

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fssai world bank consumer protection act