Monday, June 25, 2018


“80-90% vacancies will be filled; 46 new FSOs soon”
Monday, 24 July, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dr Pallavi Darade recently took over as food safety commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maharashtra. Prior to her FDA role, Dr Darade served as additional municipal commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The new food safety commissioner has already set her sights on tackling crucial issues such as manpower crunch and awareness on food safety. In a conversation with Shraddha Joshi, the new FDA chief shares her vision and mission for ensuring food safety in the state. Excerpts:

What are the new initiatives FDA is planning to take up for strengthening the food safety ecosystem in the state? Give us details on how you will be trying to reach out to consumers and FBOs (Food Business Operators).
The rules and regulations have been introduced recently and the proper observance of this would happen slowly. Until people are not made aware of what are the provisions and what could be the repercussions, the compliance may not be seen to the fullest. First thing would be to make aware and then can expect some compliance.

So new initiatives from our side would be to educate the FBOs, especially restaurant and other such traders, who have a direct connect with the masses. This includes hygiene maintenance, cleanliness, which are basic requirements of Food Safety Act. So emphasis is on how to reach to such FBOs and make them compliant.

Next would be a special drive for increasing the registration and licences amongst FBOs.

For consumers, we would be undertaking consumer awareness programmes through ad campaigns etc. We had talks with the state government in this regard and we expect a budget will be finalised soon. Further, there is also a proposal we have sent to the government for issuing directions about proper display of certificates given to the FBOs in their premises along with the display of do’s and don’ts.

So reaching them through activities and making them aware - what are the duties of all these FBOs as per the Act is one of the major thing we may take (up) in near future.

How are you planning to do enforcement based on surveillance (wherein the consumers will play a vital role and they will give feedback about the FBOs and their experience with regards to the product or service provided by the FBOs including restaurants), which has been the focus of FSSAI for some time?
Surveillance has always been a very vital thing for us. It is that way how we have been trying to regulate this sector with a constant watch by the consumers. We take samples from places when we get complaints and take action according to prescribed regulations under FSS Act.

FSSAI has been the guiding force for us in such a matter. And we do such activities on a regular basis.

How are you planning to strengthen the lab infrastructure in the state and the training of the lab staff? Recently FSSAI has decided to establish mobile food testing labs, what is the current status of labs in the state?
We have three major laboratories in Mumbai, Aurangabad and Nagpur and have two things which have happened in this matter. Central government has just approved us some Rs 8 crore of funds for strengthening our labs, out of which Rs 6.5 crore worth latest of labs instruments and machines were given to us. Rest amount would be used for physical strengthening of labs in terms of extra rooms, furniture etc. in the premises itself.

For Nagpur lab, NABL accreditation was in the process. In next 10 to 15 days, a team of NABL would be visiting and that lab would also be NABL accredited.

For mobile testing labs, we need to further strengthen them in the sense that whatever instrument was required, was not adequate enough, so we need to look into the project afresh as to how they can be further made more useful. These mobile labs are very useful in small places, yatras festivals etc. where a prompt testing can help a lot.
What is the state FDA doing in terms of fixing the manpower crunch, and grievance redressal mechanism in the state?
We already have the websites, there is a facility where anybody can complain. Of course at our offices and across Maharashtra we have various offices in districts, we have joint commissioner office in every division. So everybody is welcome for whatever grievances they have.

As far as matter related to manpower, it is a concern. We have taken up this matter with the government. We are filling the post of joint commissioners and assistant commissioners by the way of promotions within the department. MPSC has sent about 19 assistant commissioners and we have 21 vacancies out of that around 80 to 90 per cent vacancies will be filled in a month’s time and we will have 18 to 19 assistant commissioners.

Further, for the post of food safety officer, 60 seats are vacant. We would be posting 46 new FSOs which are being selected by MPSC.

What initiatives is the FDA taking to curb incidence of adulteration in Maharashtra? Is there any report about adulteration of food products like plastic rice and counterfeit food products and what measures are being taken against adulteration of milk?
We do receive complaints but how we approach the complaints is that we have given the key result areas to our joint commissioner, assistant commissioner and they have to keep a check - categories-wise. Regarding plastic rice and counterfeit food products, yes, we do receive complaints and our constant action is going on in this regard. But I would say that the kind of hype that is happening may be because of social media. Actually it is not such a huge problem in the way it is shown in the media.

Whenever, we suspect we do take samples we don't leave anything to suspicions. People should be aware what they are forwarding or watching.

Yes, over a period of time, we have been receiving complaints about milk adulteration and we get information from our informers and we do find and catch such people and many prosecution has been launched for such kind of people who are doing adulteration.

For the duplicacy or counterfeiting of food, constant action is going on every month or two. We find such people and we take whatever action is needed and at times we have done FIR in some cases. But counterfeiting is not done on a big scale in Maharashtra.

What are your goals for food safety in the state? What message would you like to give to the citizens?
I feel that if your basics are in place everything is in order. We, on regular basis, do our job of sampling, addressing grievance of the people in an efficient manner which would not only lift FDA image and make organisation strong but also relieve lot of complaints of people which they expect to get solved by FDA. So the basic responsibility of FDA to deliver safe food should never be forgotten.
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