Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI): Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act).
- Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the administrative Ministry of FSSAI.
- Headquarters: Delhi.
- Framing of regulations to lay down the standards and guidelines of food safety.
- Granting FSSAI food safety license and certification for food businesses.
- Laying down procedure and guidelines for laboratories in food businesses.
- To provide suggestions to the government in framing the policies.
- To collect data regarding contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
- Creating an information network across the country about food safety.
- Promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.
COVID-19 represents an unprecedented emergency and grave societal threat. Protecting public health is the first priority. However, governments, policy makers and the international community must also recognize and attempt to mitigate the negative impacts (current and potential) of the pandemic and related response efforts on key sectors that contribute to food security, nutrition and livelihoods. The livestock sector is a key contributor to these areas, especially for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
IMPACTS of Covid 19 situation:
Reduced access to animal feeds: Physical distancing and requirements for additional personal protective equipment are reducing the efficiency of industrial feed enterprises. Movement restrictions and illness are resulting in labour shortages and reduced supply of raw materials or other ingredients.
Disruption of supply routes has further delayed feed supply.
Reduced access to inputs and services: Movement restrictions and disruption of national and international trade routes is curbing farmer access to breeding materials and replacement stocks (e.g. day-old chicks and semen).
Reduced processing capacity: Staff reductions due to lockdown measures are constraining meat and dairy processing industries, given their labour-intensive nature.
Compromised storage and conservation: Transport disruptions and changes in retailing and consumption habits are forcing some collectors and processors to stock up.
Constrained informal businesses: Much of meat and dairy processing in developing countries is informal (i.e. up to 90 percent of volume).
Sales and consumption:
Modified retailing and product demand: Retailing is reorienting toward supermarkets and online platforms, which are now spiking. In China, leading e-commerce food delivery platforms increased their volumes by 400 percent in February 2020, while their pre-crisis share of fresh food consumption was only 3 percent. This means more packaged, longer-life and processed meat and dairy products being shipped.
Reduced consumer purchasing power: Quarantine and lockdowns are constraining purchasing power, particularly that of informal workers, and in countries with little or no social safety nets.
The economic slowdown and increasing unemployment have already left people, including millions of migrant workers in India, with little or no income with which to buy food.
Reduced demand and public procurement: In most countries, closure of restaurants and reduced tourism is leading to a sharp fall in demand for food by these sectors. School feeding programs are also suspended, which is depriving millions of children of access to food
Actions can take form of policies and responses contextualized to fit into national frameworks, while assuring compatibility with public health measures to suppress COVID-19 transmission.
The below-mentioned options are provided for consideration by national policy makers to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the livestock sector. Implementing these actions will require international coordination and resources.
- Measures to protect animal production and markets :
Establish production safety nets, which may include new or resupplied feed reserves, special permits to transport drivers allowing animal feed distribution in remote areas and waivers for agri-food system operations to keep inputs flowing. Authorities may also: i) empower producer organizations to improve bargaining via collective marketing and purchasing; ii) coordinate the supply of livestock production inputs; and iii) promote the local sourcing and production of animal feed and supplements.
- Establish emergency management procedures and services, including communication to mitigate rumours, advise stakeholders and seek feedback. Reallocate staff and resources to crisis relief activities, including the provision of movement permits, disease control and food inspection
- Allow food markets to remain open while facilitating physical distancing via: i) publichealth-conscious rules, procedures and equipment; and ii) the application of behavioural insights to market processes and environments (biodiversity, land, water, and ecosystems) where diseases flourish.
Preventive measures to ensure better quality and safety: Some of the preventive measures that may be useful in addressing the safety and quality concerns related to meat and poultry products are given below:
1. Safe production practices: a) Controlled use of antibiotics and veterinary drugs: Uncontrolled presence of residues of antibiotics and other drugs in food, as a result of their use in meat producing animals, has the potential to pose a threat to human health and also lead to the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) among disease causing bacteria. Therefore, FSSAI has notified the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, toxins and Residues) Amendment Regulations, 2018 specifying ‘Tolerance Limits’ of antibiotics and other veterinary drugs in meat/meat products and poultry.
b) Certification of animal feed/poultry feed/feed supplement: Feed is the major source from where many chemical residues like pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals etc. contaminate meat and poultry. Thus, controlling animal feed would play an important role in restricting these chemicals from entering the food chain. As per FSS Act, animal feed does not come under the mandate of FSSAI. However, BIS has a voluntary standard for the same. All the producers of animal feed should obtain BIS certification for their feed to ensure safe meat production
2) Safety measures to be followed by food business operators
Specific hygienic and sanitary practices across entire meat food chain All food business operator involved in meat food chain from farm to fork should follow the basic principles of safety and hygiene. Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations 2011, in Part IV of Schedule 4 outlines specific Hygienic and Sanitary Practices to be followed by Food Business Operators engaged in manufacture, processing, storing and selling of meat and meat products
Complying quality and safety standards
Measures to maintain processing and retail operations
• Provide guidelines for COVID-19 control and prevention along the supply chains to protect value chain actors and their families. These guidelines should include provisions for heightened biosecurity, personal protective equipment and hygiene.
• Provide grants to increase packaging and freezing capacities. Small- and medium-sized enterprises and factories should be encouraged to produce safe products with long shelf lives.
• Organize grouped slaughtering points and support the installation of the cold chain to reduce unregulated slaughtering and improve meat inspection.
• Find alternative ways to reach children of the school feeding programmes and distribute animal-protein-rich foods to improve nutrition and smallholder incomes.
Elements of safe meat control system in FSSAI:
- Identification of issues related to food quality and safety with respect to domestic and imported food products
- FSS Standards for Meat and meat products including poultry
- Development and implementation of Food Safety Management System for Licensing and registration of food business operators
- Consumer Awareness
Issues related to food quality and safety
A. SAFETY AND HYGIENE ISSUES: Because of being nutritionally rich and highly perishable in nature, meat and poultry products are at high risk of contamination and spoilage
(i) Microbiological contamination
a) Slaughtering on the floor without the possibility of hanging the carcass
b) Carcass splitting, cutting and deboning is carried out on the same contaminated floor area
c) Careless evisceration that spreads intestinal content onto the meat surface
d) From worker’s hands, tools, working surfaces, equipments, water, pests, packaging , different lot of meat/offal and during dressing
e) Pathogens can also grow during production, storage or transport, if condition, particularly temperature is suitable for their growth
f) Insufficient training, supervision, lack of awareness of the importance of hygiene measures & quality control tools (HACCP principles) leads to ineffective management systems
ii) Chemical contamination
a) Residues of veterinary medicines, antibiotics, pesticides, heavy metals, processing aids etc.
b) The indiscriminate use of antibiotics and veterinary drugs either for therapeutic purpose or prophylactic purpose results in drug residues in edible tissues/organs of the birds as well as eggs
c) It may also lead to possible development of resistant strains of bacteria
(iii) Physical contamination: This includes contamination of meat or poultry with materials such as:
1. Metal such as metal from rails knife, blade, etc.
II. Plastic materials
III. Others such as hair, rubber, bone splinters, dust, dirt, dead insects, stone, etc.
Food Safety Management System (FSMS):
A Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is not only an assisting tool to make sure safe practices are followed within your business but a legal obligation too. ISO 22000 has been developed as an international solution for improving food safety. Rather than applying good manufacturing practices, HACCP, and ISO 9001: 2000, also known as Food Safety Management System (FSMS), is an international auditable standard. Standard ensures a safe food supply throughout the chain and provides a framework of the internationally harmonized system for the global approach.
Dos and Don’ts for Consumers
- Prefer to buy packaged and chilled/ frozen meat
- Store the meat in refrigerator (4±1° C) immediately after purchase for short term storage (2 to 4 days).
- Store the meat in deep freezer (-18±1° C) for long term storage (upto 12 months)
- Buy meat only from shops having FSSAI registration and licence
- Enquire regarding location of slaughter and ensure their hygienic standards before buying meat
- In the packaged meat and meat product, do check for manufacturing date, best before date and other declarations before buying
- Cook the meat thoroughly before consumption
- Keep in mind following basic points while purchasing meat and meat products:
- FreshnessVisual appearance (colour, texture, fat content)
- Hygienic condition of the meat outlet
- Licensing/registration status
- Personal hygiene of the retailer
- Do not buy meat from retail shops having unhygienic production practices
- Do not consume the meat which is smelling, slimy and greenish in colour
- Avoid buying meat from retail shops who hang the carcasses in open.
Dr. Jessy BaghDept. of Livestock Production and Management, CVSc & AH, OUAT