Policy

Top job at FSSAI lying vacant; DGCI facing litigation

P. T. Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on September 29, 2011

Tops jobs at two key regulatory authorities in the country - governing food and medicines, respectively, are either vacant or face litigation. And while this will impact the industries they govern, it also reflects the low priority that food and healthcare get in the country, say stakeholders.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India Chairperson, Mr P.I. Suvrathan, has retired and no replacement has been named yet, an FSSAI representative confirmed.

A different regulator - the Drug Controller General of India, faces a different problem.

The extension-period granted to present DCGI, Dr Surinder Singh, is facing legal opposition from the All India Drug Control Officers Confederation. The Association had approached the Madras High Court saying that there are enough candidates to choose from and an extension was not required, the AIDCOC General Secretary, Mr R. Udaya Bhaskar, told Business Line.

On the Government’s assurance that a new DCGI will be appointed, the present DCGI has got another three months, ending on October 31, he said. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has advertised for the DCGI’s post and even this has been opposed by the Association.

The qualifications for recruitment of a new DCGI are not in line with the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (Rules), he said. A licensing and controlling authority, the DCGI post required people who are technically-sound and with experience in enforcement. But these qualifications are being watered down, from pharmacy and a clinical pharmacology background to more generalised qualifications like a science background, he added. “All we are asking the Government is to adhere to the rules of the D&C Act,” he said.

Ad-hoc impact

Regulatory authorities need to have a chief – a key driver of policies and vision – something that an ad-hoc “acting authority” or officer on an extension may not quite have, observes a seasoned regulatory expert who had worked with both the food and drug industry. The food industry has recently transitioned into a new regime under the integrated Food Law. Several areas including functional foods, claim assessments, etc need greater regulatory clarity and attention, he said.

On the medicine front, the DCGI’s office needs to not just tackle the growing issues around the Rs one lakh crore pharmaceutical industry, but also needs to focus on clinical research and medical technologies, among other things, he added.

Published on September 29, 2011

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