DIMAPUR, July 23 � Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) has set August 4, 2012, as the deadline for food business operators to obtain food licenses from respective local health authorities, but with the Nagaland government yet to issue any notification or authorisation for implementation of the same, food product distributors, wholesalers and traders alike are in a fix.
Shopkeepers and dealers/distributors of food products here have reportedly been told by the office of the Local Health Authority, Dimapur, that it cannot issue the FSSAI license since the State government is yet to notify the office on the matter.
As per the directives of the central Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, all businesses related to food will become illegal without the FSSAI license after August 4.
In Nagaland, besides few cottage industries and processing units, the food business is pre-dominantly wholesalers, distributors and sellers. Those in the food supply chain told by the FSSAI to obtain the license include food importers, hotels, restaurants, clubs/canteens, caterers, transporters, storage establishments, processing units, etc. One of the objectives of the enforcement is to ensure that registration/licensing provisions are fulfilled and food items are safe, hygienic, wholesome and free of contaminants.
The Health Ministry had already notified all state governments in April 2011 for commencement of the FSSAI 2006 Act under the Second Schedule and had given a three-month room as transition period.
Sources maintained that the authority concerned in the State had been reminded of the matter time and again but said no response has been forthcoming.
Mandatory statutory authorities that need to be positioned as per the Food Safety Act include Designated Officers (DOs), Food Safety Officers (FSOs), Adjudicating Officers and Food Safety Appellate, Tribunals etc, all of which, sources say, are yet to be implemented.
Local health authorities, when contacted, admitted that they are yet to receive any notification from the higher-ups for issue of the license and that no licensing authority has been appointed either for which reason they cannot issue the license although the deadline is drawing near.
Barring the PFA Act, the central government had repealed the enactment and orders in the Second Schedule of the Food Safety & Standard Act 2006 and amalgamated them under one Act. The licensing authority for most of the Food Acts is now vested upon the State health authority. Earlier, such licenses could be obtained only from the Centre.
The FSSAI, in its directive, categorically states that no person shall commence or carry on any food business except under a License under section 31 of FSS (licensing and registration of food businesses regulations 2011).
This has understandably got food dealers (distributors, exporters and traders) seriously worried as they stand to lose their businesses and investments. They say that no food company would be willing to supply their products if they (distributors) are unable to furnish the FSSAI license.
And, at the end of the day, it will be the consumers who will bear the brunt of the situation as a disruption in the supply of food products will trigger a chain of consequences leading to a steep price hike in essential food items.