Dr. N. Bhaskar, FSSAI, Advisor (QA) and Sagrika Sanjay from Food Marketing & Technology-India interacted In an interview during the event of 5th Annual Conference of the India Section of the AOAC INTERNATIONAL. His leadership has made FSSAI more successful.
1 What is your view on strengthening of food safety systems in the country?
Food testing is an integral part of the FOOD SAFETY REGULATION and ENFORCEMENT. Through a network food testing laboratories (state food testing labs and referral labs) has been established across the country; however the testing facilities available in these laboratories are facing challenges in terms of availability of sophisticated analytical equipment, and trained scientific and technical manpower.
2 Tell us about FSSAI’s SOFTel.
FSSAI has formulated a scheme for strengthening of food testing laboratories (SOFTel) in the country. The scheme consists of bouquet of six initiatives. The AOAC INTERNATIONAL can provide technical assistance to FSSAI for making a detailed assessment of training needs of food safety personal in the country, providing national/international consultancy and establishing national/international advisory mechanisms for benchmarking and harmonising food safety practices to the best in the world.
3 What is the main Focus of FSSAI along with the AOAC INTERNATIONAL?
FSSAI has signed a MOU with AOAC that will us harmonise a lot of methods prescribed for the laboratory. We are also trying to hook up with the AOAC INTERNATIONAL for the betterment of the educational initiatives.
4 Tell us about FSSAI’s RELYNE.
It stands for reference laboratory. The word RELY means to commit on something. FSSAI’s RELYNET is a mixture of the words-Reference Laboratory Network. I abbreviated the term for our National Reference Laboratories so that we always have the objective of the work. It is RELYNET; it has to be reliable always. The name is not yet final; this is just the idea.
5 What is the meaning of “Digitalization of the FSSAI”?
The term digitalisation is used for the digitalising of the transactions which are happening in the laboratories. For Example, the analytical reports generated takes time to reach out to the people. For the regulators, or the firms, for example, it gets difficult to accumulate reports. Here what happens, the report will get immediately uploaded, and it will get easier to revise the standards or the data, in case it requires any changes.
6 How many AOAC countries are participating?
We believe the entire AOAC member countries would be ready to participate. The reason is AOAC being a 100 year old organisation, every member country would participate.
7 What is the significance of this MoU that was signed?
Through this MoU, AOAC has offered free access to the official method of analysis (OMA) to the FSSAI. AOAC will also support FSSAI in its capacity building programs, and in initiating collaborative studies on developing and validating the methods of analysis for various nutritional and food safety parameters in India specific food matrices. FSSAI will recognize the AOAC methods for official control purposes.
8 How do you want to media to voice your opinion?
Media is very supportive in creating and shaping the public opinion. It the intermediate between the government and the people. We don’t want media to create panic. Recently there was an advertisement which ststed “eating chicken is hazardous”, and the very next day they wrote “eating chicken is good”! The media sometimes starts the panic and then tries to calm it down. The call for media would be not to start the confusion for the common public.
9 Recently there was news that “Chips contain plastics”. What is your comment on that?
I will explain this with a simple everyday kitchen experiment. When we make the ‘tadka’, the ingredients catch fire, because it has oil in it. Similarly there are bio-chemical reasons behind this. Such is the chemistry of food.