Shri J P Nadda presides over the ‘First Health Ministers Roundtable on Food Safety & Nutrition’

Urges States for strengthening food testing laboratories

New Delhi, January 10, 2018: “Central Government is providing support to the tune of Rs. 482 crore for the States. As many as 45 State labs are to be strengthened. I request the States to come forward with the proposals or give us the plan for strengthening the laboratories.”This was stated by Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare as he presided over the ‘First Health Ministers Roundtable on Food Safety & Nutrition’ organized by FSSAI, here today. Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS (Health) along with the Health Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Puducherry, Jharkhand and Delhi were also present at the roundtable.

Shri J P Nadda further stated that finance will not be a constraint and each State should have at least one government food laboratory of high quality with bigger States having at least two. Citing the example of Pradhan Mantri Dialysis Program, the Health Minister said that initially states expressed some apprehensions about this initiative however today the programme is a huge success. “More than 1.76 lakhs patients have availed free services from 539 Dialysis Units across the country, Shri J P Nadda added.

Speaking on the enforcement of food standards, Shri Nadda said that there should be fairness and transparency in enforcement. “We must safeguard public health by ensuring all food businesses are licensed and follow standards. At the same time, we should be careful that it does not put unnecessary regulatory burden on the food businesses”, Shri Nadda said. Emphasizing on generating awareness, Shri Nadda said that sensitization is a major area to work for and FSSAI can provide support in this so that people opt for self-regulation.

Shri J P Nadda further mentioned that the focus should shift from disease and treatment centred healthcare to preventive and promotive healthcare. Moving towards this, the Government has announced transforming 1.5 lakh sub health centres to ‘Health and Wellness’ centres. Shri Nadda further stated that in a step towards provision of comprehensive primary care, the Government has initiated universal screening of common NCDssuch as diabetes, hypertension and common cancers at the sub-centre and Primary Health Centre.“This will enable the strengthening of preventive and promotive health, improve patient referral and access to secondary care services, ShriNadda added.

Speaking at the function, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS (Health) stated that promoting and building the mechanisms for availability and consumption of Safe & Nutritious Food is central to attainment of the goals laid out in the National Health Policy 2017 which focuses on “promotive and preventive health care” and targets to reduce disease burden and premature mortality through Non-Communicable Disease like Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases among others. He further said that carrying out IEC and outreach efforts to create awareness in people about safe food & nutrition at schools, workplace, etc is central to avoiding food borne disease related morbidity & mortality and consequent savings in healthcare.

Smt Preeti Sudan, Secretary (Health) assured support to the States through NHM. She further stated that we all aware of the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases in our country. Promoting healthy dietary habits amongst citizens is a key step to address it. “We must work together to inspire greater public confidence about food and nudge people to eat safe and eat right so that we can a healthier nation”, she stated.

The Union Health Minister also released framework for ‘Clean Street Food Hubs’ and ‘Safe and Hygienic Food Festivals’. These two initiatives would help to build capacities of street food vendors and will go a long way to inspire citizens’ trust in unorganized street food vending. The Minister also released FSSAI’s ‘Healthy India Food Calendar’. First of its kind, this calendar covers India’s main festivals, the food associated with them and their nutritional benefits. FSSAI’s new look website with focus on its key stakeholders was also launched today.

During the round table, a team of researchers, who have carried out a rapid assessment of economic costs of food borne diseases in India, shared their findings. According to them, food borne diseases impose a huge economic burden on India. As per their estimates, this would amount to as much as 0.5 percent of India’s GDP or about 28 billion USD.

During the Round table, the State Health Ministers assured to work towards creating a culture of self-compliance amongst food businesses by helping them build internal capacities, focus on third party audit, making enforcement transparent, standardized, predictable and fair by adopting a digital compliance platform, encouraging rating and fair competition amongst food businesses. States agreed to strengthen the food safety machinery and the state food lab system in their respective States.

During the Round table, the State Health Ministers adopted a joint resolution with a seven-point charter. This includes – 1) supporting development of robust food standards and code of practices for safe food; 2) creating a positive regulatory environment; 3) establishing a credible and robust national food testing system; 4) addressing micronutrient deficiencies and promoting healthy dietary habits; 5) bringing about large-scale social and behavioral change in citizens on safe and nutritious food; 6) building a culture of self-compliance in food businesses; and 7) developing effective institutions and institutional arrangements backed with competent human resources and adequate financial resources.

Also present at the Roundtable were State Health Secretaries and Food Safety Commissioners from the States, Senior officials from Ministry of HRD, Health and Family Welfare and Women and Child Development, FSSAI, industry associations, World Bank, WHO and World Food Programme, and development partners such as Tata Trusts, GAIN and PATH participated.

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