Saturday, August 8, 2009

CSE condemns industry inclusion in apex food regulatory body

Will lead to a severe conflict of interest

New Delhi, August 7, 2009: The Centre for Science and Environment strongly condemns the shocking development in the newly set up Food Safety and Standards Authority of India which has inducted as members in its top scientific panels representatives from the industry which it seeks to regulate. Set up under the Food Safety Act, 2006 the Authority will be the apex and one and only food regulatory body in the country. In a clear case of conflict of interest and industry lobbying, employees of many big food businesses have managed to sneak into the top scientific committees and panels of the authority. These include employees of Coca Cola India, Pespico, Hindustan Unilever, Marico Limited, Britannia Industries, ITC limited, Nestle India, Hind Agro Industries Limited and GSK Consumer Healthcare Limited. Intrusion of industry into the top scientific food regulatory body will destroy its credibility.

In 2003 and 2006 CSE had released its findings on pesticide residues in bottled water and soft drinks. CSE had found that food safety in India was completely compromised and that regulations were non-existent or poor. In 2004 the Joint Parliamentary Committee had taken cognizance of CSE’s findings on alarming food safety situation in the country and had asked for a complete revamp of regulations. It was after this that the Food Safety Act was passed and the authority set up under it. “But by including industry in its scientific panels the recently constituted Authority has lost all credibility and food safety will be further compromised,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE.

When CSE had released its findings of dangerous levels of pesticides in soft drinks sold in the market, intense debate had followed on the issues of food sampling, analysis and food additives and processing. What is shocking is that soft drink company representatives have been made members of scientific panels dealing with these very issues. A general manager of Coca Cola India is a member in the “Scientific panel for method of sampling and analysis”. Another general manager from Coca Cola and a Vice-president of Pepsico are members of “Scientific Panel for food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food”. Representatives from Britannia and ITC limited are member of the “Scientific Panel for pesticides and antibiotic residues”.

Most of the representatives of the industry are managers or from managerial positions. It is shocking that managers and those on managerial positions have been inducted into these highly technical and scientific panels. “The Authority is completely compromised. It might as well be buried before it is born as it has hired out its swanky new offices to the industry,” Narain said.

No comments: