Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Thursday called for framing universal food safety standards as well as country-specific standards after detailed discussions at a global level. He said it was essential to tackle the challenges of food contamination, lifestyle diseases and imbalance in nutrition intake.

Addressing the inaugural session of Global Food Regulators Summit organised by FSSAI, Mandaviya stressed on the need for a global platform for detailed discussions and deliberations on food safety, on the lines of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO. “The way habitual disease is growing, the way we are finding contamination in food and the way imbalanced nutrients are becoming part of our food, there is a need for universal discussion,” Mandaviya asserted.

He said framing of country-specific standards should take into account a particular region’s climatic conditions, soil health, human health, animal health and plant health among others

Highlighting the measures taken by the Modi-led government in terms of supply of medicines and vaccines, he added, “Health has never been a commerce for India. For India, health is service,” he said.

Farmers as centre stage

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar urged global food safety regulators to keep farmers at the centre stage while framing standards. “ Farmers are food producers and their interests should be protected. It is essential to make food safety rules that consumers are provided with affordable food products and farmers also get the right price for their produce,” he added.

Talking about macro-economic conditions, India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant pointed out that one-third of the world is in recession, 75 countries are facing global debt crisis with several others coping with crisis of food, fuel and fertilizers. “The need of the hour is not only to focus on the immediate crisis and short-term measures but also for all countries to make their food systems more resilient in the long run,” he said. Kant added there was a need to focus on food waste prevention programmes globally to reduce food insecurity and mobilise private funding for research in sustainable agriculture. He also said that alternative crop cultivation such as millets and deployment of digital tools such as soil maps needs to be encouraged.

During the event, Food-o-Copoeia was launched, which will serve as a single point reference for all applicable standards for a specific product category detailing quality and food safety standards, labelling and claim requirements, packaging requirements, test methods and any other regulatory provisions. 

Common dashboard

A common regulators platform called ‘SaNGRAH’ — Safe food for Nations: Global food Regulatory Authorities Handbook was also launched . It is a database of food regulatory authorities of 76 countries across the world in various languages. A common digital dashboard was also launched, which provides comprehensive information on standards, regulations, notifications, advisories, guidelines and contamination limits, among others.