The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has reconstituted its Scientific Panels, and empanelled about 200 experts from different scientific organisations such as ICMR, CSIR, ICAR, NIFTEM, IIT’s and various institutes working in the area of food safety and nutrition, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement on Wednesday.
These scientists will work with FSSAI for next three years and suggest FSSAI about the scientific aspects of food safety. This will further make way to notify food standards and regulations.
FSSAI was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 for laying down science-based standards for articles of food for ensuring the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption in the country.
The Scientific Committee and the twenty-one Scientific Panels are the principal scientific arms of the food authority in the standard development process.
The FSSAI has reconstituted 21 Scientific Panels, each comprising of 09 members, and the Scientific Committee comprising of the chair of 21 scientific panels & 06 independent members on February 24, 2023, which are operational with effect from March 1, 2023, the ministry said.
The Scientific Panels are constituted by the Food Authority under Section 13 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act) for the purpose of developing standards, and also to provide scientific opinion/inputs to the food authority, as and when sought.
The Scientific Committee (SC) is constituted by the food authority under Section 14 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act) and is a body consisting of six independent experts (nominated by the Food Authority and not belonging to any of the SPs) and Chairpersons of all the SPs, as members.
Currently, it has a strength of 27 Members. The SC, as a statutory body, acts as the link between SPs and the Food Authority.
SC mainly examines the recommendations made by each of the panel and further recommends for approval by the Food Authority. This is the highest body that is responsible for providing scientific opinion to the Food Authority, the ministry said.
At the point of inception of FSSAI, Food Authority commissioned only 8 SPs. Currently, there are a total of 21 SPs that comprise 11vertical and 10 horizontal panels.
The process of development of a standard is driven by the principle of food safety and assessment of risks associated therein. A standard could be of general nature that applies to all product categories, and are often referred to as horizontal Standards.
The horizontal standards prescribe safety requirements of food products. These standards include food additives, contaminants, toxins, antibiotic residues, pesticide residues, microbiological parameters, packaging and labelling requirements. Similarly, the standards that are specific to a product or a product category are referred to as vertical standards.
The vertical standards mainly prescribe identity and quality to a product/product category. The standard development mainly involves SPs who deliberate and develop the base standard; and, these are further validated by the SC before being finally approved by the Food Authority, the statement added.