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Food safety & quality crucial for building confidence consumer

10 March 2009 1,694 views No Comment

An e-mail interview with Pankaj Jaiminy, divisional manager, Food & CPD for TÜV SÜD South Asia, one of the leading certifications, testing, inspections and training providers in the country. Excerpts:

Do you think that MFPI’s (ministry of food processing of India) “2008-09: Food Safety & Quality Year” will help the food & beverage sector to achieve its goal of 100% safe and quality products in the country?
Awareness of food safety and quality is increasing in Indian consumers. The Mofpi initiative to declare 2008-09 as Food Safety & Quality Year is a positive step of the Government in this direction. The ageold food practices in Indian household like silver utensils for drinking and eating were in line with food safety concept. However, with the changed lifestyle and increased dependability on factory processed food, the implementation and awareness of food safety & hygiene is crucial for good quality products.

Though Mofpi and other associations are conducting seminars to make the food processors and manufacturer aware about the various food safety measures and systems implemented in other countries, we require more seminars and public awareness programmes to initiate the ‘safe food revolution’ in our country.

With increasing food laws and policies world over, how difficult or easy it is for food exporters to meet international requirements?
The international requirements press the manufacturers to follow GMP (Good Manufacturing practices), GHP (Good Hygiene Practices) and Codex HACCP in food processing units. These are basic requirements to build confidence in consumers of developed markets that products are safe to consume. Today, the requirements are not difficult to follow; the difficulty is to initiate ‘change’. Change – from current practices to best practices in the country.

The systems like HACCP, GMP and ISO 22000 will not only reduce the risk of product failure and potential hazards but also reduce the cost on wastage and improve productivity. The awareness of consumers is equally important on these issues to create strong demand for safe & hygienic food.

Are Indian food policies & certifications enough to meet international standards?
The food certification systems required in every country either ISO standards e.g. ISO 22000 (Food Safety Management System) or the client nominated standards e.g. BRC Global Food (British Retail Consortium). In India, food companies are increasingly implementing the food safety systems like HACCP, BRC food, ISO 22000, GlobalGAP, Fami-QS and others. The newly established Food Safety & Standards Act (FSSA) authority also demands the implementation of food safety system in all food units. FSSA had even initiated the projects to educate the street food venders and food handlers.

The export requirements and system to monitor the quality of agriculture produce like grapes through GrapeNET, a project of Apeda, is an example of best practices followed in India.

What are the current trends and development in food certification in India and abroad?
Internationally, the new industry specific standards are gaining more acceptance. Standards like BRC Global Food is required by retailer chains, GlobalGAP is required by retailers of fresh produce, Fami-QS is required by European feed & food additives importers, IFS (International Food Safety) is required by German retailers and others.

The government agencies like Mofpi, Apeda are also providing subsidy on cost of food safety implementation to food processing units.

What do you think of the future for Indian quality certification? Which are the certifications and services you offer?
The certification in Indian food industry is bound to be more due to the ‘Push & Pull’ forces in the market. The ‘Push’ from government agencies in the form of subsidies, regulatory requirements with heavy penalties and ‘Pull’ from the increased awareness/demand of safe food from consumers. Both these forces will help the Indian food industry to upgrade the quality measures in the near future.

To support the Indian food industry, TUV SUD South Asia is offering one-stop solutions to industry for certifications, testing, inspections and training. Our ISO/IEC 17025:2005(NABL) accredited laboratories in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai are offering routine to highly specialised testing, e.g. nutritional labelling test, chemical & microbiological test, analysis of antibiotics & pesticide residues, heavy metals, vitamin estimations and shelf life studies.

We offer NABCB, DAR accredited certifications for ISO 9K, 14K, 18K, 22K, HACCP, BRC Global Food & Packaging, IFS, Fami-QS, GMP+ etc. We are one of the few CBs accredited by NABCB for ISO 22000 for highest (8) industry categories and exclusively accredited for Dairy, Meat processing and Hotel industry. We also offer the awareness & lead auditor training programmes on GHP, HACCP, GlobalGAP, ISO 22000 and quality & quantity inspection of export & import consignments.

What are your suggestions to improvise the current condition of the food processing sector and food quality assurance & certification in the country?
Awareness is the only solution. We need to include the food safety & quality, consumer rights, in course curriculum of schools so that the future consumers will become aware of their rights and demand the best quality food. Proper training programmes for the food handlers working in the processing industries in their native language are essential. Many food handlers working at shop floor level are not educated which lead to ignorance of the importance of GHP or GMP in the country.

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