FSA Board to consider proposals for the sale of raw or unpasteurised milk

The FSA Board is being asked to consider new proposals for the sale of raw, or unpasteurised, milk. These would include exploring the scope for wider access to raw milk, including limited sales from vending machines in shops, and changes to hygiene controls.
The proposals are set out in a board paper published today. They follow an extensive review of the current raw milk controls and a public consultation launched in January.
The review found that the current controls are managing the potential risks associated with drinking raw milk. There was also strong support from existing consumers and producers for continued, wider and controlled access to raw milk.
Selling raw milk from vending machines placed in shops is currently not allowed, although they can be placed on farm premises. Subject to the FSA Board's agreement, the FSA would begin discussing with raw milk producers the practicalities of vending machine sales in shops, and any additional controls that might be required to ensure that the risks are being managed.
Steve Wearne, Head of Policy at the Food Standards Agency, said:
'Throughout this review process we have sought to balance consumer protection with consumer choice. It is clear that the current raw milk regulations have worked well to control the risks from raw milk. We are not advising that these controls should be removed completely as they are necessary for continued consumer protection. However, we believe there is the opportunity for us to make changes which balance modest liberalisation of sales with controls on production that ensure continued consumer protection.'
The proposals cover England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Sale of raw milk is banned in Scotland.
The FSA launched a four-month consultation on the raw milk regulations in January. This included a raw milk stakeholder event held in Central London on 31st March. More than 140 people gathered to take part in the discussion and hear speakers including representatives of the FSA, raw milk producers and consumers, Dairy UK and scientists.

Indian Beverage Association sore on excise duty hike on aerated drinks

The Indian Beverage Association (IBA) was taken aback at the Centre’s 2014-15 Budget move to hike the excise duty on aerated drinks with added sugar by five per cent.

In a statement issued after the Budget was announced, IBA’s spokesperson said, “We are extremely shocked by the retrograde budget proposal of a five per cent hike in excise duty on aerated drinks with added sugar.”

“The soft drinks industry is already one of the highest-taxed categories in the country. The combined impact of Central value-added tax (CENVAT) and state VAT rates reaches 34 per cent in eight states in the country,” he added.

“Coming on top of the current 12 per cent rate, the additional five per cent duty increase would be tantamount to a 40 per cent increase in the central excise duty which would hit the industry hard, and cause a major slowdown at a time when demand growth for the industry has been sluggish,” the spokesperson stated.

“The carbonated soft drinks industry is a key segment of the food processing sector in India. It is a significant user of agri products and, with its high labour intensity, contributes significantly to agricultural growth and employment,” he pointed out.

“With a ratio of direct to indirect employment of 1:4, similar to that of the software industry, the industry’s developmental impact is not adequately appreciated,” the spokesperson added.

“Currently, the industry employs over 3,00,000 people, and if there is a conducive environment for growth the industry has the potential to grow at double-digit rates, and can contribute more than a million additional jobs over the next decade.,” he pointed out.

It must also be understood that in a country where options of safe, convenient and hygienic beverages are rather limited, carbonated soft drinks play a very important role in meeting the hydration needs of people.

With this hike in excise duty, the industry will have no option but to increase the price of its products. An increase in price will also fuel the growth of beverage options from the spurious and unorganised sector which, on the one hand, poses significant risk to public health, and on the other, will take away tax revenue from the government.

IBA, in its statement, has urged the government to reverse this hike, as it will retard the progress of an industry which could have a significant positive impact on India’s development, particularly in the changed governance scenario in the country.

FSSAI will help food service sector in resolving licencing issues: CEO

Addressing National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) in New Delhi representatives recently, D K Samantaray, chief executive officer, Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) assured that the regulator would help the food service industry resolve all issues pertaining to licencing and registration, sampling and enforcement.

Emphasising on the larger participation of all stakeholders, he said that there was no place for Inspector Raj in the food sector, and the entire idea of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006, was capacity-building, training and implementing it through participation.

Samantaray urged the stakeholders to help FSSAI in making the entire food chain, from farm to fork, secure. “The challenges are difficult, as the food does not merely contain viruses, but it now contains heavy metals, antibiotics and veterinary drugs as well, and therefore, the participation of primary producers (i.e. farmers) is also needed,” he added.

He also emphasised the need for back-end infrastructure like laboratory testing facilities for farmers that would educate and enable them to reduce the risk of overdose of chemicals during farming.

During the interaction, Samir Kuckreja, president, NRAI, said that the purposes of holding the interaction were to spread awareness about the Act and to discuss the challenges being faced by the industry in relation to the implementation of the various regulations under the Act.

He said, “The food service industry is a decent contributor to the public exchequer with an estimated contribution of Rs 11,500 crore towards taxes in 2013. This is projected to double by 2018 to nearly Rs 24,600 crore.”

“The industry successfully engaged with FSSAI and resolved many issues, including filing of returns, the list of documents to be submitted, checklists for inspectors, etc. NRAI has also taken up issues like the reduction of the appeal time to designated officers from 30 days to seven days,” Kuckreja added.

He said that he believed the new food safety laws were forward-thinking and ambitious, while the regulations should be aimed at helping the industry and not be overbearing in procedural issues which detract from core business.

We are urging the public to stop washing raw chicken

We have issued a call for people to stop washing raw chicken to reduce the risk of contracting campylobacter, a potentially dangerous form of food poisoning. The call comes as new figures show that 44% of people always wash chicken before cooking it – a practice that can spread campylobacter bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment through the splashing of water droplets.
Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. Around four in five of these cases come from contaminated poultry. The resulting illness can cause abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and vomiting. In certain cases, it can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a serious condition of the nervous system. At its worst, it can kill. Those most at risk are children under five and older people.
As part of the call – which comes at the start of this year’s Food Safety Week – the FSA has written to production companies that make food programmes, asking them to ensure that people aren’t shown washing raw chicken on TV. The letter, which can be found via the link towards the bottom of this page, has been co-signed by all of the major food retailers.
FSA Chief Executive, Catherine Brown, said: 'Although people tend to follow recommended practice when handling poultry, such as washing hands after touching raw chicken and making sure it is thoroughly cooked, our research has found that washing raw chicken is also common practice. That’s why we’re calling on people to stop washing raw chicken and also raising awareness of the risks of contracting campylobacter as a result of cross-contamination.
'Campylobacter is a serious issue. Not only can it cause severe illness and death, but it costs the economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year as a result of sickness absence and the burden on the NHS. Telling the public about the risks and how to avoid them is just one part of our plan to tackle campylobacter. We are leading a campaign that brings together the whole food chain, which includes working with farmers and producers to reduce rates of campylobacter in flocks of broiler chickens and ensuring that slaughterhouses and processors are taking steps to minimise the levels of contamination in birds. We are committed to acting on campylobacter and providing safer food for the nation.'
The survey commissioned by the FSA found that levels of awareness of campylobacter are well below that of other forms of food poisoning. More than 90% of the public have heard of salmonella and E.coli, whereas only 28% of people know about campylobacter. Furthermore, of the people who have heard of campylobacter, only 31% of them know that poultry is the main source of the bacteria.
The most cited reasons people gave for washing chicken were the removal of dirt (36%), getting rid of germs (36%) and that that they had always done it (33%).
Ann Edwards, 67, from Hertfordshire contracted campylobacter in 1997 and is still living with the consequences today. She said: 'After contracting campylobacter poisoning, I was ill for a week before being admitted to hospital with bladder failure. I couldn’t eat and was so de-hydrated that I lost almost two stones in weight. Shortly after, I developed Guillain-Barré syndrome which left me paralysed from the chest down. I was in hospital for seven weeks and even now – 17 years later – I have no movement in my toes and rely on a walking stick. Physically, it has been the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I urge anyone who is handling chicken to take care and follow the advice given by the Food Standards Agency.'

FIR against poultry farms in Haryana for spreading infectious diseases

The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) took action against 21 poultry farms in Barwala Block of Panchkula District, where conditions were unhygienic, for violating pollution control norms and spreading diseases.

While a first information report (FIR) was registered against some, HSPCB ordered that ten farms be shut down and sent notices to eleven others. The residents of Barwala and nearby villages protested the unhygienic conditions and the growth of houseflies.

Barwala Block is one of the largest poultry farm belts in North India, with more than 150 farms in and around the village. Poultry farmers in the region are going through an difficult phase, as both the government and the public have turned against their business.

Last year, HSPCB has tightened their norms for poultry farms to control waste management in the state. The state government asked poultries to adopt modern sanitary methods to prevent the contamination and pollution caused by poultry waste.

Most of the tight norms issued by HSPCB in May 2013 made the poultry business expensive. The owners of the farms were instructed to spray insecticides around the farms to avoid the breeding of flies.

The growth of flies resulted in a number of health issues in the villages and surrounding areas. Officials blame the unscientific practices followed by the poultry owners while dealing with the wastes produced in the farms.

On the condition of anonymity, a poultry farmer in Panchwala district said, “Poultry is an important industry in Haryana. Poultry farmers in the state are taking steps to avoid the breeding of flies and the consequent health issues.”

“No farmer in the state is interested in increasing the growth of flies. This happens because of the waste produced by poultry. The government has laid down some rules and norms to control this, but most of them are impractical and expensive,” he added.

“The government should help farmers in managing poultry waste instead of registering cases against them. The poultry industry in Haryana would face a setback if such incidents occur again. Farmers would be discouraged from and fear entering poultry,” the farmer stated.

Nirmal Kashyap, regional officer, Panchkula, HSPCB, said, “With more than 150 poultry farms, Barwala is an important belt for the poultry industry. We have provided guidelines to the poultries to control pollution and manage waste produced.”

“HSPCB is pulling up 21 poultry farms in Barwala for violating pollution norms. Flies spread diseases in the villages near the poultry farms. Poultry farms should be stick to HSPCB norms to control pollution and health problems in the state,” he added.

“Paramjeet Saini, deputy public relations officer, Panchkula district, said, “FIR have been filed against most of the poultry farms that violated rules. Waste management is an important part of the poultry business.”

“Farm owners have to be careful about pollution, poultry farm produce lot of waste. The improper and unscientific management of waste and poultry products can lead to health issues, including various diseases,” he added.

“The breeding of houseflies is one of such problem. The district administration would take strict action against any violation of norms and curb health problems. We have instructed farmers to use insecticides to stop the breeding of flies,” Saini stated.

Food and Drug Administration closes two more packaged water plants

PUNE: Officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closed down two packaged drinking water plants located in Pimple Gurav and Malwadi as they were operating without licences.
"The owners have been directed not to operate the plants till they meet all the required compliances," said Shashikant Kekare, joint commissioner (food), FDA.
Licences from the Bureau of Indian Standards and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India are prerequisites to run a packaged drinking water plant.
Food safety officials Sachin Adhav, Rajendra Kakde and Avinash Dabhade carried out the raids under the guidance of assistant commissioners Dilip Sangat and Shivkumar Kodgire.
"We have also drawn samples of the processed water and sent them for testing," Sangat said. On June 23, the FDA had closed down three packaged drinking water plants in Baramati for operating without licences.

Water pouches seized

Food Safety and Drug Administration Department authorities seized water sachets that were manufactured and sold without proper certification in and around Melur on Thursday. According to J. Suguna, Designated Officer for Food Safety and Drug Administration, 7,500 water sachets were seized from six manufacturing units and two shops that sold them. “The units we inspected had not obtained permission to manufacture water sachets and the ones seized from the shops did not have date of manufacture and other details,” she said. The inspections were carried out in Melur, Thiruvathavur, Mathur and Narasingampatti. Thirty-five shops were inspected, Dr. Suguna added.

Tea Board for strict adherence to food safety standards

In a bid to retain the markets of developed buying countries, Tea Board today asked the tea industry to strictly adhere to food safety standards.
"The importance of need for food safety cannot be overemphasised. Developed buying countries are putting stringent conditions on ensuring food safety which Indian producers will have to follow," Tea Board chairman Siddharth said at the AGM of the Calcutta Tea Traders Association (CTTA) here.
He said conditions imposed by countries like US and EU can't be ignored but would have to be honoured as these were major export destinations.
However, Siddharth said the trade missions located abroad are very active in pleading to the governments of these countries to do away with such non-tariff or technical barriers, adding that any retaliatory action by 
India would not yield result.
Siddharth said the Tea Board was also working on new schemes and policies for production and marketing.
He also informed that the Price Stabilisation Fund of Rs 500 crore created by the government 10 years back and which got expired in 2013, was being re-activated and could be used for protecting major price fall in commodities, including tea.

Food and Drug Administration closes two more packaged water plants

PUNE: Officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closed down two packaged drinking water plants located in Pimple Gurav and Malwadi as they were operating without licences.

"The owners have been directed not to operate the plants till they meet all the required compliances," said Shashikant Kekare, joint commissioner (food), FDA.

Licences from the Bureau of Indian Standards and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India are prerequisites to run a packaged drinking water plant.

Food safety officials Sachin Adhav, Rajendra Kakde and Avinash Dabhade carried out the raids under the guidance of assistant commissioners Dilip Sangat and Shivkumar Kodgire.

"We have also drawn samples of the processed water and sent them for testing," Sangat said. On June 23, the FDA had closed down three packaged drinking water plants in Baramati for operating without licences.

Why bottled water in Pune should be doubled checked before drinking

Pune: If you are ordering home bottled potable water, then here is what you must know. In recent raids by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), it has been found that several companies in rural Pune and Baramati are manufacturing packaged drinking water.
With FDA’s order of shutting Pimple Gurav’s Narayan Mineral Water and M Avhale Industries in Haveli taluka, the number of such companies has reached five cases in Pune division alone.
According to FDA officials, these plants were carrying out reverse osmosis (RO) and carbon and sand filtration and sold the processed water in 20-litre containers to offices and party organisers.
“These plants are running without licences from the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that are prerequisites to run a packaged drinking water plant. Such water can have traces of heavy metals which is injurious to health. While we have made a public appeal for all such business owners to complete all formalities or face action, we are appealing to public at large to remain alert,” said Shashikant Kekare, joint commissioner (drugs), FDA, Pune.
Asked on how does one ascertain if the packaged water is safe to consume or not, Kekare said that one must check the water can for markings of BIS licenses. “No other licenses are valid and if there is no proof of licensing, people must refuse to accept that water can and inform us about it,” said Kekare.