Module 11. Indian food regulation in global scenario

Lesson 45

45.1 WTO and Indian Food Industry

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was formed in 1995 as a replacement for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which lasted from 1947 to 1994. The Head Quarters of WTO is at Geneva (Switzerland) and the official languages are English, French and Spanish. It currently has 153 members, of which 117 are developing countries or separate customs territories. WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. It provides a forum for negotiating agreements aimed at reducing obstacles to international trade and ensuring fair deal for all, thus contributing to economic growth and development. Currently, there are 16 agreements to which all WTO members are parties and two agreements to which only some WTO members are parties.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is universally recognized as the international reference for food hygiene standards. The Codex contact Point in India is the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. However, the Department of Food Processing Industries is closely associated with the activities of Codex Alimentarius and has made financial provision in subsequent budgets for creating the database, technical examination of various standards in association with experts and coordination as well as participation in international Codex meetings.

The GATT/WTO agreement concerning dairying came into effect from July, 1995 as included in the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). It emphasizes the need for liberalization of trade so as to have distortion-free markets. The two agreements that enable the enforcement of quality and safety are the 'Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)' agreement relating to all goods and 'Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)' agreement concerning agricultural products. While the basic objective of the former is to avoid unnecessary obstacles to trade by treating imported products on equal terms with domestically produced goods, the quality aspects of all primary products of plant and animal origin are grouped under the latter. The TBT and SPS guidelines are laid down by member countries at CAC meetings. As it is mandatory that the member countries have to make their national SPS regulations conform to international standards, it is apparent that India will have to improve the quality norms in order to merge with the International context. However, as different countries adopt different quality norms, the homogeneity of food products across countries are not guaranteed. The large numbers of food laws that exist in India and the many agencies/ministries that implement them also are in contradiction to the theory of equivalence between the National and International standards in the liberalized post-WTO environment.

India and other developing countries are struggling to join the international milieu of quality standards. Lack of hygiene and sanitation is the sole cause for the rejections and bans on Indian exports. Although developing countries are encouraged to attend Codex meetings to set standards, many of these nations do not have qualified manpower for this. In addition, the SPS controls in many developing countries are weak and disjointed and need major organizational changes. Homogeneity of domestic food standards with the international ones is imperative to gain a place in the international market. These regulations should also be supported by precise and sound scientific reasoning. In the absence of such support in the post-WTO environment, no ban on the entry of imported foods containing ingredients and additives that are not permitted by the FSSR, 2011 (formerly PFA) though approved by the Codex and are being used globally, would be effective.

45.2 Regulatory Bodies in India

The Indian food processing sector maintains its quality parameters through compulsory legislation which specifies minimum standards and certification systems. Legal standards are formulated to exercise control over the quality of foods offered for sale and to safeguard the consumer from health hazards posed by possible adulteration. The three major Indian standards prevalent in the dairy industry are the FSSR, 2011 (formerly PFA), Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Agriculture Produce Grading and Marketing Act (Agmark).

45.2.1 Food safety and standards authority of India

The Food Safety and Standards Rules of India replaces the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act which has been in use since the year 1954 for the protection of consumers against supply of inferior quality or adulterated food. Food Safety and Standards Rules came into effect from August, 2011. The standards have been formulated by the Department Of Health and Family Welfare (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare). The act, as was under PFA, spells out standards of various food articles in terms of minimum quality for safeguarding against harmful impurities and to ensure safety. These are compulsory standards that are obligatory for any food product going into the market. Any violation of the rule can lead to fines and imprisonment.

45.2.2 Bureau of Indian Standards

Bureau of Indian Standards, formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI), was established as a statutory body under the Ministry of Consumers Affairs in 1986. BIS specifies standards for goods manufactured in the country in consultation with the experts drawn from manufacturing units, research and technical institutions, purchase organizations and other concerned parties. In the processed food sector, the formulated standards are implemented through voluntary and third party certification systems. These standards are amended suitably from time to time and cover the permitted raw materials and their quality parameters, hygiene rules for manufacturing, packaging and labeling requirements. Manufacturers complying with these standards can obtain ‘ISI’ or ‘BIS’ certification and exhibit the same on their product package. The various certification schemes operated by BIS are 1) BIS Product Certification Scheme, 2) Quality Scheme Certification as per IS/ISO 9000 series, 3) Environmental Management System as per IS/ISO 14000 series and 4) Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) as per ISO-15000.

45.2.3 Agmark

The Agriculture Produce Grading and Marketing Act was first enacted in 1937 to prescribe grade standards for agricultural and allied commodities. The standards came to be known as Agmark standards and are formulated by the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection (DMI), under Ministry of Agriculture (Government of India). Agmark categorizes the commodities into various grades (for example, Special and Standard). Grading under this act is voluntary. Manufacturers who comply with these standards are allowed to use ‘Agmark’ logo on their products to give the consumers an assurance of quality in accordance with the standards laid down. Three dairy products (ghee, butter and dairy spreads) are currently graded under this scheme.

45.2.4 Milk and Milk Product Order (MMPO)

All dairy plants processing more than 10,000 liters of milk per day or handling more than 500 tonnes of milk solids per annum are now required to obtain registration certificates from the competent authority. This was the result of setting up of an Advisory Board in 1992, by the Government of India for guidance on production, sale, purchase and distribution of milk and milk products. Dairy plants processing up to 75,000 L per day or equivalent quantity of milk solids per annum need to be registered compulsorily with the Directorate of Animal Husbandry in respective states, while those handling more than 75,000 L per day have to register with Department of Animal Husbandry of Central Government. This order has also defined milkshed areas, so as to restrict uneven procurement and marketing of milk and set rules for production, hygienic conditions, packaging, labeling, marketing and penalty.

45.2.5 Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act

Enacted in 1963 and operated by the Export Inspection Council of India, this act works under the Department of Commerce. It stresses on compulsory inspection of the manufacturers’ premises, human hygiene, quality of raw material purchased, hygienic manufacturing practices followed, quality assurance programmes followed, packaging and labeling at the production center for the exportable product. A certificate has to be obtained from the Council before the consignment is cleared for export for each batch. The act covers compulsory pre-shipment examination of a large number of exportable commodities. The quality control and inspection of export product is administered through a network of officials located at the main production centers and port of shipment.

45.3 International Standards in the Indian Context

The Codex Committee on Milk and Milk products (CCMMP) was established in 1993 to cater to new scientific and technological developments and accordingly revise the existing standards. Eleven standards of Codex have been revised and adopted by the CAC over the years. A few of the altered ones as a consequence of Indian intervention deal with the definition of milk, inclusion of ghee in the standard Milk Fat Product, incorporation of BHA as an antioxidant and removing the restriction of permitting only cow milk as a raw material particularly for cheeses. Concerted efforts by India at the IDF as well as CCMMP led to accepting the suitability of buffalo milk for cheese making. This was a boon to the subcontinent as India and Pakistan account for 92 per cent of the world’s buffalo milk. Despite these efforts, several anomalies still exist in the two standards.

45.4 Harmonization of the Indian Standards With International Standards

The WTO accepts the international food standards/guidelines/codes related to food hygiene and sanitation formulated by the codex as the reference points for the global food trade. Most of the national food standards would have to be harmonized with those of codex and the dairy industry would be required to comply with them. In India, the food safety regulations, whether mandatory or voluntary, are implemented by different agencies/ministries/departments. Different quality standards as laid down for ghee by FSSR, BIS, Agmark and Codex are presented in Table 45.1. The presence of multiple agencies to implement multiple laws poses a problem of fixing responsibility. It is, therefore, necessary to have uniform and logical approach for regulating the quality of food and for harmonizing with the international regulations.

Table 45.1 Quality parameters for ghee

Table 45.1
(Source : Deodhar (2001)NM- not mentioned)

A task force constituted by the Prime Minister was set up for the constitution of a Food Regulation Authority (FRA) be set up in place of PFA to formulate and update food standards for domestic and export market and to conform to international standards. The task force was given ten specific recommendations which include standard methods of analysis, provision of adequate infrastructure/ laboratories, harmonization of Indian standards with the quality norms of Codex, WTO and FRA governing body for expeditious decisions to replace the Central Committee on Food Standards (CCFS). The Food Safety and Standards Act was introduced in 2006 as a result of these efforts. Later, the Act came into effect as FSSR since August 2011.

BIS is the largest body for formulating standards for various food items and is voluntary. The Ministry of Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs has brought out a paper for consideration of the Committee of Secretaries (COS) recommending that the BIS should formulate standards for all food items in the country. Several quality control orders such as MMPO, Meat Product Order (MPO) and Vegetable Oils Control Order (VOCO) have been issued under Essential Commodities Act. These orders are mandatory and are primarily meant for regulating the hygienic conditions. All these orders need to be included in a single order, which may later be named as the Food Products Order (FPO). The international guidelines (ISO-17020), which includes ‘the general criteria for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection’ as well as Codex standard have been adopted for export inspection and certification systems. The Export Inspection Council (EIC), the official certifying body of the Government of India has been designated as competent authority by the European Commission for marine products and basmati rice. Similar recognition for egg and milk products is awaited.

45.5 Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)

The HACCP concept has been introduced into the food production systems in order to produce safest possible food items for consumers, considering each and every possible hazard well in advance. Incorporation of the system helps in identifying the potential hazards in the process operations based on viability/proliferation of the contaminants and laying down control measures. It determines the critical control points, defines critical limits and their monitoring and thus guards the food against any food safety hazards. Each organization must develop its own HACCP to suit its individual product line, processing, packaging, storage, distribution and marketing.

45.6 Conclusion

Dairy processing industry in India is flooded with immense potential in the area of R&D in terms of value addition. The potential gains are many, including higher returns for producers and advantages in terms of health, therapeutic, nutritional and/or gastronomy for the consumers. However, the Indian Dairy Industry can amass possible benefits by being a global contender in trade only when its products are at par with those available in the rest of the world in terms of price and quality. It is evident from the post-WTO scenario that for sustainability, Indian dairy industry will need to maintain wholehearted commitment to quality management right from the farm to the consumer, shedding its inhibitions and resistance to changes.

Selected Readings

Deodhar, S.Y. 2001. Quality, non-tariff barriers and WTO regime: Issues in food industry. Programme Material. Programme on WTO and Indian Agriculture. December 17-19. 2001. Indian Institute of Management, Vastrapur, Ahmedabad - 380 015.
Laws Relating to Food Processing Industries. A Publication of Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
Proposed Draft Code of Hygienic Practice for Milk and Milk Products. Appendix III Alinorm 03/13A. 2002.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 2000, Universal Law Publishing Co., Allahabad.
The Standards of Weight and Measures Act, 1976. Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, Government of India.
Thompkinson, D.K. and Sabikhi, L. 2011. Quality Milk Production and Processing Technology. New India Publishing Agency, New Delhi.
Varshney N.N. 2003. New Codex standards relevant to dairy industries. Technews No. 44 (May-Jul) National Dairy Development Board.
Last modified: Wednesday, 10 October 2012, 5:31 AM