Ranchi/New Delhi, July 7: Cutting across party lines, state governments have demanded that the Centre shift the food safety regulator, FSSAI, to Consumer Affairs Ministry from Health Ministry for better regulation of processed food items.
The central government instructed states to crackdown on hoarders, ensure adequate supplies and remove inter-state trade barriers on Tuesday, even as it considers making a second import of pulses to cool prices as it scrambles to check seasonal rise in prices of fruits and vegetables in the period between July–November.
Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan held hectic consultations with state food and consumer affair ministers throughout Tuesday while Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh spent the day reassure himself of contingency plans being in place to tackle any situation arising out of rain deficiency.
A six-month action plan was chalked out to maintain supplies and check prices of pulses, edible oil, rice, onion, tomato and potato at the meeting.
States were asked to monitor wholesale and retail prices of essential commodities and make market interventions at real time. They were also asked to amend Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act to remove inter-state trade barriers on staple food items like onions.
Currently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) comes under the purview of Healthy Ministry. The regulator has been in the news since the start of the Maggi controversy.
“Jharkhand, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh demanded that FSSAI should be governed by the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry and not Union Health Ministry. Other states/UTs supported their demand unanimously,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters here.
He refused however to comment on the demand made by state governments in this regard.
The FSSAI issue was raised in the meeting of state food ministers on price rise issue. Around 33 states and Union Territories attended the meeting.
Jharkhand Food Minister Saryu Rai said, “FSSAI should be part of the Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry because the issue is related to food.”
Unlike Health Ministry, Rai said, the Consumer Affairs Ministry is well-equipped with labs to check food safety as well as consumer courts to take further action against offenders.
“I hope Paswanji will taken action on this issue. If need arises, a delegation of state governments will meet the Prime Minister to explain the logic behind our demand,” Rai said.