India food safety regulations weak: Experts
New Delhi, Feb 20 : At a beginning of a two-day conference here on Food Safety and Environmental Toxins, organized by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), most speakers agreed that food safety regulatory structures in India were either too weak or simply ignored.
T Ramasami, secretary, department of science and technology, addressing the gathering of scientists, civil society activists, regulators, health experts and media from across the country, said that the "government needed to provide a policy and regulatory framework and enforcement structure".
According to him, India will have to concentrate on improving public health in future, and in doing this, the role of public service institutions such as CSE and its Lab would be critical.
The conference is being organized to also mark a decade of work by CSE's Pollution Monitoring Lab, which has been instrumental in carrying out some seminal studies in testing for toxins in food and environment.
Tracing the history of the work done by the Lab, CSE director general Sunita Narain said: "If you can use science for building public confidence, you can use science to make a difference."
Keshav Desiraju, secretary, department of health and family welfare, speaking in the same session, pointed out that while there is a resistance to regulations and regulatory controls, what is needed is a regulatory approach that targets manufacturers on one hand, and a public which demands quality in products on the other.
"If there is good reason to believe that food is not meeting standards, then consumer and advocacy groups can take up the cause. It won't be easy, as industry is against us, and it caters differently for abroad and India. We would need to involve schools, young people," he said.
On its first day, the conference covered subjects such as pesticides and pesticide regulations, community struggles and the role of independent labs, and junk food and non-communicable diseases.
The key speakers included S Dave, chairperson, CODEX Alimentarius Commission; K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India; E A S Sarma, coordinator, Forum for Better Visakha, Vishakhapatnam; and G V Ramanjenuyulu, executive director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad, among others.