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FOOD SAFETY

Fillip for lab infrastructure in India - Training centre & mobile labs
Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has embarked on a massive exercise to strengthen the laboratory infrastructure in the country by setting up an international lab training centre, establishing or revamping labs and procuring mobile testing labs.

Among these, the lab training centre for high-end training, which will cater to developing countries in the vicinity, is being set up in Mumbai. The centre is being set up by the apex food regulator in collaboration with the Export Inspection Council (EIC), Government of India. It will be located at EIC’s Inspection Agency premises.

High-end equipment
The facility would have capacity for hands-on training of heavy and high-end equipment and lab training for food analysts. Towards the initial phase, Rs 16 crore have been granted by the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) and the work would soon begin on the project.

Disclosing details on the proposed project, FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal stated that this lab was being developed with EIC with support from GFSP wherein high-end equipment for lab training worth around Rs 16 crore will be installed to impart training to food analysts from different countries.

With regard to setting up or revamping of labs, Agarwal stated that work on Ghaziabad’s FSSAI lab has been initiated with identification of the partner for PPP model and in three months’ time a state-of-the-art lab would be ready for use. It would be used as a model lab in the country.

As for mobile testing labs, nine out of 62 that are being planned under the programme Food Safety on Wheels, have been given to states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

Agarwal stated that mobile unit had a fully functional laboratory equipped with basic infrastructure for quick qualitative testing for detection of common adulterants in various food commodities. At least one unit for each state and UT is being planned. The number can be more in respect of bigger states.

“We will see how the states would utilise these. And there would be option for the states to run these on their own or through organisations,” he said and added that nearly 60 tests, these labs can do that include 24 tests for milk, 9 for edible oil and fats, 7 test for spices and condiments, 11 other food tests including some microbiological tests.

One mobile lab each
Punjab, Chandigarh and Gujarat already have one mobile lab each. Besides, FSSAI also launched India Food Laboratory Network (InFoLNet) which is a digital solution to connect all food labs in the country to a Centralised Lab Management System (LMS). This system would provide an end-to-end solution, where samples collected by the field units would be coded and tested in FSSAI notified labs and the results would be available in a Central database.

FSSAI is also working on strengthening around 45 state food labs by providing state-of-the-art high-end food testing equipment including microbiology labs. This initiative has been rolled out with exchange of MoU with eight states and UTs.

Under the programme, equipment would be given to states for detecting hazardous contaminants, pesticides, antibiotics, natural contaminants, heavy metals and microbiological tests.

Further, FSSAI has decided to augment its lab analyst programme. For that it has decided to conduct Junior Analysts Examination which would help students to get easy enrollment in companies. According to FSSAI, in order to address the issue of acute shortage of food analysts in the country, it has decided to hold Junior Analyst Examination along with Food Analyst Examination in late September/ early October this year. This would help attract young talent for food analysis in the country and overtime build a large pool of such analysts both for the food industry and the regulatory system.

Lastly, a tool-kit for rapid testing of common adulterants has been launched. FSSAI stated that a compilation of simple test methods for detecting common adulterants at home such as extraneous matters deliberately added with food has been put together. DART (Detecting Adulterants with Rapid Testing) offers a self-enforcement tool and a ready home-guide to the citizens to combat adulteration.
 
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