Aiming to strengthen food safety across the country, India’s apex food regulator on August 19 announced the launch of the annual nationwide ‘Eat Right Challenge’. The announcement was made by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, in an online orientation workshop organised by the food authority. FSSAI, as an incentive for joining the challenge, will be providing the first 150 districts/cities to register with a seed funding of up to Rs 5 lakh. It will also provide a separate fund for the implementation of participant-proposed innovative projects. The challenge is a part of the FSSAI’s large-scale initiative called Eat Right India (under the aegis of the Ministry of Health) that aims towards improving public health and combating negative nutritional trends in the country. About 197 districts and cities have registered to participate in the challenge and FSSAI will be supporting the first 150 states and cities that have registered. A seed funding of Rs 50 lakh will be used for this purpose while additional funding will support the implementation of innovative models. Dr Harsh Vardhan, speaking on the occasion, noted how many reports suggested that people in the same households may have different responses to Covid-19 based on their immunity. Immunity is mostly acquired through nutrition and therefore promoting a healthy diet can tackle multiple diseases. He said, “61.8 per cent of deaths from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular complications, etc. are related to a person’s faulty diet and several communicable diseases also severely affect those who are malnourished.” The minister claimed that an initiative like the ‘Eat Right Challenge’ was the need of the hour for a heavily populated country like India. Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs, FSSAI-certified third-party auditor for the Eat Right Campus Initiative, also encouraging the need for such initiatives, said, “The pandemic and its fallouts have created a situation that can only be resolved by initiatives like the Eat Right Challenge. It is no doubt a brilliantly designed programme that’ll help explore new ways to recognise creative models & ecosystems that’ll help establish food safety into India’s routine.” The challenge will motivate the participating states, districts, and cities to actively compete in adopting various food safety initiatives, improving their performance, and encouraging others to join the challenge as well. Bhadri added, “The challenge might not only encourage states and cities but also food businesses across the country to acknowledge the significance of food safety & hygiene.” The workshop also saw the launch of the ‘Eat Right Handbook’, a comprehensive guide for the Food Safety Commissioners & district officials to adopt & scale-up Eat Right India (ERI) initiatives. FSSAI’s ‘Eat Right India’ movement has come a long way in creating awareness amongst the people about eating safe, healthy, and sustainably. The Eat Right Challenge, led by the Designated Officers (DOs) under the guidance of the State Food Safety Commissioners/ District Magistrates (DMs), also promises to be beneficial in broadening the reach of registration, enforcement and surveillance efforts at the states level, among other core regulatory activities of FSSAI.
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