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Govt overhauling food testing process: Harsimrat Kaur

The food testing process and regulations that govern food product approvals were outdated and the government has been working on overhauling them, says Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan, the minister said the government is harmonising food testing processes to bring them in line with global standards.

Earlier, companies needed product-by-product approval from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), she said. So much, that even if companies were to tweak ingredients in their products, they needed fresh approvals.

“There are so many products in the country that the approval process took a really long time,” she said.

The government has now pre-approved a list of 8,000 — soon to be expanded to 12,000 — ingredients. This figure earlier stood at 375 ingredients.

“If a company is creating a product using any of those 8,000 approved ingredients, they do not need approval,” she said.

Below are the excerpts from the iterview.

Q: One of the things you said soon after taking charge was of regulatory overreach. You said we should not have a situation like inspector raj, it should be more like self regulation. So, in that regard what are the steps your ministry has taken?

A: Food processing had a lot of potential. One of the biggest hiccups and road blocks that they were facing that the rules in our country was that every time you make anything new, any new product or even if you decide to add an extra thing to an old product, it all has to go through product approval all over again through FSSAI and each and every product needs approval.

In this huge country where how many flavours of lassi and how many flavours of juice and what types of cakes and biscuits, you name it and it is there and there is one FSSAI giving approval to all this. So, obviously it was taking forever.

We should have systems which are harmonious as to the way it is being done in the rest of the world.

By December FSSAI who had only  375 in approved ingredients have from 375 gone to 8000 and are shortly be going to be going above 12000 approved ingredients.

We will have 12000 ingredients which have been harmonised internationally the way it is done in other countries. So, in the same way like you do not need  product by product approval there, now here in India as well if you are using any of those 8000 approved ingredients you do not need to go in for separate product approval.

Full interview transcript will follow. Watch this space.