The apex food regulator has issued an order for appointment of designated officers for Central licensing at seaports and airports. A total of 20 such officers were appointed across different airports and seaports. Interestingly, all the appointees are MBBS doctors.

The seaports where the designated officers were appointed include Goa, Paradip, JNPT, Mumbai, Kolkata, Cochin, and Kandla while the airports include Pune, Mumbai, Amritsar & Attari, Lucknow, Bhubaneswar, Trivandrum, Trichy, Cochin, Calicut, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Jaipur.

When asked if it was a normal practice to appoint MBBS doctors as designated officers/ licensing authority for handling licensing of food business, the FSSAI, in a reply to FnB News, responded that as per Sl. No. 10 of Schedule 1 of Food Safety & Standards (Licensing & Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011, “Food catering services in establishments and units under Central Government Agencies like Railways, Airport, Seaport, Defence etc. come under the purview of Central Licensing Authority.”

And further, as per Reg. 2.1.5 (2), the Chief Executive Officer of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, in the capacity of Food Safety Commissioner, may appoint a Designated Officer or Food Safety Officer for Central Government organisations like Railways and Defence, which have a large number of food establishments, to ensure food safety in those establishments and to ensure that all other conditions laid down for running food business under the Act and these Regulations are complied with.

The statement by FSSAI reads, “Seaports and airports are under the administrative control of the Central government which are being regulated by the Directorate General of Health System (DGHS) through their Port Health Officer (PHO) and Airport Health Officer (APHO). Thus, being Central Government organisations, the Designated Officers/ CLAs for the Seaport and Airports are being appointed by the CEO, FSSAI, in the capacity of Food Safety Commissioner in exercise of the powers conferred under the said Regulations.”

In this regard, “The proposals for the appointment of the Designated Officers for ports and airports are received from the Directorate General of Health System (DGHS) from time to time which are accordingly appointed as the Designated Officer for the concerned point of entry; provided they fulfil the above laid down criteria as per the Rules for the said post.”

Also when asked if MBBS doctors are qualified enough to handle matters related to food, the food regulator replied, “As regards the eligibility criteria for the post of Designated Officer, a person can be appointed as Designated Officer possessing the qualification as prescribed in Rule No. 2.1.2 of Food Safety & Standards Rules, 2011, which stipulates that the Designated Officer shall be a whole time officer, not below the rank of Sub-Divisional Officer or equivalent. Thus, there is no specific educational criteria for the said post as per the FSS Rules, 2011, as amended from time to time.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Forum of Food Importers said, “We, as Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI), welcome the FSSAI’s initiative of hiring Designated Officers at various ports of entry. It’s always helpful to have active resources on the ground, which work with a clear directive and are also well versed with India’s regulatory requirements. We continue to urge FSSAI to run routine training sessions with the FBOs and also for FSSAI’s personnel -for all the stakeholders to be aware of the narrative from the head office and ensure seamless compliance.”