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INTERVIEW

“When we get approvals, we will hire. Now, working with food tech interns”
Monday, 03 February, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]

The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of the most vibrant state level food safety law implementation bodies in the country. Apart from winning the leading state award in food safety, it is at the forefront in hygiene ratings and FoSTaC. Also it has always been noted for topping the licensing and registration rate in the country and for carrying out special raids and campaigns such as Clean Street Food Hub. In an exclusive interview with Vijetha Iyer, Maharashtra FDA Commissioner Pallavi Darade throws light on these crucial aspects as well as other key areas such as manpower crunch. Excerpts:


Has Maharashtra completed the licensing and registration of FBOs procedure? What are the issues being faced in this regard?
The daily licensing and registration, which is going on, is an ongoing process. We are doing a special drive by Government of Maharashtra.
 
Most states are facing lack of FSOs and other manpower and infrastructure issues. How is the state of Maharashtra faring in these areas?
Yes, we do have vacancies and we require FSOs. In Maharashtra, we have more than 10 lakh Food Business Operators. Our proposal is there with government so when we get the approvals that time we will hire them. For the time-being, we are working with the interns of the food technology colleges, even pharmacy college students work here as an intern, laboratory interns, etc. For those students, it is an opportunity to learn and it will be like an added project in their curriculum.
 
Every year, the FDA initiates special raids during festivals. What kind of proactive action has been taken this year?
Every time, before any big festival arrives, we used to receive a letter from the Commissioner office. This year, what we have done is that we have made a timetable for the whole year, because we know beforehand which all festivals are coming on which day and date, so we make a timetable in the beginning of the year itself. We will start the work in July or in August because from then many festivals will be coming up so as per this our drive dates are ready. We mainly collect large amounts of samples of mawa, milk, maida, besan, gutkha to check the quality and adulteration in it, specially from the month of August to December.
 
Other than that, the food projects which we are working on, we have told many schools and colleges to implement healthy meal which was started in Mumbai. Taking a cue from Maharashtra, it is being implemented all over India. Firstly, the Government of India has already banned junk food in schools and colleges which wasn’t getting implemented. We are actually going to schools and colleges and inspecting regarding the same and getting it done. We have visited more than 1,000 schools in Eat Right Maharashtra that is a special effort for Mumbai and Maharashtra. And there is huge amount of obesity in kids because of this kind of food. A study was done by Indian Dietetic Association, so they realised that more than 50% of kids are pre-diabetic at the age of 11. So, wherever junk food, carbonated drinks are there, we are stopping them from the menu. In more than 1,500 schools, we have conducted a workshop and we have given a certificate to those schools to motivate them. We have launched it on June 7, 2019, Eat Right Maharashtra, and now the same date is considered by Government of India to implement all over the country. This year, we have won the leading state award as Maharashtra is the leading state for food safety in India, so we were awarded by FSSAI by Harshvardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare.
 
Which are the latest towns and cities that are now part of the Clean Street Food Hub campaign?
We have three clean street food hubs. They are Girgaum Chowpatty, Juhu Chowpatty and the latest is Saras Baug (Pune). We have listed more than 12-15 clean food hubs across Maharashtra and the work is still going on because we have to co-ordinate with cooperation as they are the one who provide cleanliness, water and licensing etc. Cooperation plays an important role for the same because then the work will be done smoothly. Hygiene ratings are done by Government of India, in that we have more ratings in Maharashtra from that 175 are ours, 172 are in pipeline and other states are also working for it. Also, in the Food Safety Training and Certification (FoSTaC), we have completed more than 47,000, which is the highest in India.
 
Other than that, the collection of Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO) was more too.
 
Tell us about the measures taken in hotels and restaurants.
We have checked around 4,000 top hotels in Maharashtra in the past one-and-a-half year. The hotels include five star and others. Every food safety officer was given a target of 20 to be checked in his raid. This was really a big effort.
 
What are the regulatory challenges with regard to hotels and food processors?
Recently, Amul, Marico and Nutralite were saying that in their products it is zero fat and zero cholesterol content, which is 1.5 gram per 100 gram, whereas the saturated and zero fats, which they were offering were 32 gram in 100 gram package. Also, the low fat should be 20 gram per 100 gram package. So, it comes around 36 gram in 100 gram package. So, this is misinforming and misleading the consumers so that's when we took action against them. Soon, Amul, Marico and Nutralite corrected the same. We verified the samples after correction. So, in Maharashtra this unique action was taken. Now, their products are safe for consumption.
 
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