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FOOD SAFETY

FSSAI to set up national reference laboratories for method development
Friday, 27 October, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has decided to set up national reference laboratories which will work towards method development, method validation, proficiency testing and training by national or international accreditation bodies that are signatories to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC) or an equivalent accreditation body.

These labs will be notified by the country’s apex food regulator after the regulations - which are called the Food Safety and Standards (Recognition and Notification of Laboratories) Regulations, 2017 - for the lab certification are adopted, for which it has issued a notice.

According to the norms, “The food laboratory shall have a valid accreditation certificate for the relevant scope against ISO/IEC 17025 by a national or international accreditation agency which is a signatory to either ILAC or APLAC.”

Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive officer, FSSAI, informed that these Regulations for labs are mostly procedural. He added, “For the first time, we have adopted the concept of national reference labs, where proficiency testing, work to develop methods, etc. will take place. Every country has national labs for such purpose. These regulations have provisions for the same as well.”

The process for identifying the reference labs will begin soon. Although no new lab will be established for the purpose, reference labs will be identified amongst the existing premier labs in the country.

The primary jobs of the reference lab will be:
  • To develop countrywide standards for routine testing procedures and reliable testing methods
  • To be the resource centres for the provision of information for certified reference materials (CRMs) or reference materials (RMs)
  • To provide technical support in the area of competence
  • To evaluate the performance of other notified laboratories
  • To coordinate exchange of information amongst notified laboratories
  • To collaborate for data generation among their network and collate the data related to their specific domain
  • To perform such other functions, as may be specified by FSSAI from time to time
Agarwal said, “We shall start process of identifying the reference labs from the existing labs, which will perform these functions prescribed under the regulations, soon.”

Besides, there would be notified labs for food testing and analysis, and referral labs for the purpose of investigation and act as to appellate laboratories in cases of disputes.

“These new notifications are extremely comprehensive,” opined experts, who stated that they have provided steps and measures starting from functions of any food laboratory, recognition criteria and process, validity, suspension and its revocation, along with criteria for special laboratories.

Ashwin Bhadri, chief executive officer, Equinox Labs, said, “India has a very limited number of testing labs for the number of food laboratories.”

“To follow the legal procedure of recognising a lab and its responsibilities, it is necessary to have a streamlined operational process standardised,” he added.

“This notification will benefit the current and the future analytical facilities cater better to the food businesses and the consumers,” Bhadri said.

On whether these regulations will have positive impact on the food industry, he added, “The major hurdle lies in understanding the process.”

“The labs need to follow certain rules and responsibilities to be on par with the laws set by FSSAI,” Bhadri said.

“India is on the verge of a paradigm shift. A decade later, the food industry, with such developments, will witness revolutionary changes,” he added.

“We always say that food businesses need to comply with the law. It is time we bring ourselves into the picture and work towards compliance and unified growth,” said Bhadri.
 
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