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NGOs Urged FSSAI to Defer Food Safety and Standards Regulations 2017 Allied to Organic Foods

Tanya Verma

| Updated: Aug 14, 2019 | Category: Startup

Food Safety and Standards Regulations

The NGO and associated sectors have urged the FSSAI to defer the enforcement of Food Safety and Standards Regulations 2017 related to Organic Foods for further reasoning. The NGO and the Civil Society Groups have demanded in a letter to the CEO of FSSAI[1] to postpone the conscription of regulation against uncertified organic farmers and to exempt local traders from these regulations. In this blog, we’re going to dig in deeper to know more about it.

Food Safety and Standards Regulations 2017

The FSSAI under the Section 92 (1) of the FSS Act which is “Power of Food Authority to make Regulations” made a regulation namely, the “Food Safety and Standards {Organic Foods} Regulations, 2017”. This regulation was made available to the public on the 22nd of June 2017. It consists of three chapters setting up guidelines the organic food labeling and certification and Imports and Reciprocity.

What is India Organic?

India Organic is a certification mark used by manufacturers of organically farmed food products. The food products containing the certification mark certifies it and proves that the food product complies with the National Standards for Organic Products {NPOP} established in the year 2000.

The certification mark came into existence in the year 2002, even though the National Standards for Organic Products {NPOP} is in effect since 2000. 

The standards ensure that the products are produced without using any chemical fertilizers, induced hormones, or pesticides. The government agency that issues this certification is the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority {APEDA}. This authority works under the National Program for Organic Production of the Government of India.   

What is India Organic Certification?

The organic certification is a certification scheme that is used to certify/ approve products that comply with organic food standards. Products that are certified containing the prescribed logo assures the consumers that the food they are consumers is healthy and is organic.

India has a higher number of organic farmers than any other country

organic farmers graph
organic farmers graph

India has the third-highest annual increase of organic cultivable land in 2015

organic cultivable land in 2015
organic cultivable land in 2015

What was the step by FSSAI?

As per the Food Safety and Standards {Organic Foods} Regulations, 2017, the Food Safety Regulator, i.e., the FSSAI relaxed certain norms for small organic producers. The FSSAI allowed small organic producers having a turnover of over Rs. 12 lakhs to sell their products without obtaining the Organic Certification. However, such organic producers won’t be able to use the ‘Jaivik Bharat’ logo.

Also, the FSSAI gave similar relaxation to Aggregators having a turnover of Rs. 50 lakhs. However, organic food retailers need to comply with existing certification norms.  The regulatory body said that the self-certification of the aggregators and small organic producers having prescribed turnovers would be considered. However, the limits of contaminants and insecticides will also be checked in case of such exempted categories of producers and aggregators. These exemptions will be valid until 1 April 2020.

Also, Read: Food Security Card – Everything You Need to Know.

Why the NGOs urged FSSAI to postpone its decision?

The NGOs gave the following reasons for requesting the FSSAI to defer its decision of enforcing the Food Safety and Standards {Organic Foods} Regulations 2017;

  • They think that there is no preparedness for organic certification in our country
  • The certification process is costly which is a problem for poor organic producers
  • Additionally, the certification process is complicated and hence inaccessible for small or rather uneducated farmers
  • They also think that although the certification can be taken from the government as well as private sectors, the online requirements are “long-drawn, comprehensive and impossible.”
  • They said that the government should take into account a large number of unregistered organic producers
  • They also noted that the exemption regulations do not apply to the organic food retailers and hence will continue to affect marketing opportunities for the uncertified organic farmers

Issues in the Current Certification system

The significant problems in the present Organic Certification system are the following;

  • The existing Organic Certification process is expensive and sophisticated. Therefore the procedures should be made simpler  and cheaper so that small and marginal organic farmers across the country can reach it
  • Presently there is a lack of infrastructure facilities such as Labs and Certification Bodies
  • There are only export regulated organic market in our country
  • Also, there is low awareness about organic inputs
  • There are a large number of small farms with weak organizational buildings
  • Organic products are expensive
  • There is a lack of development strategies for the organic market 
  • The present knowledge for the development of the organic market is scattered and is not easily accessible, just like any other developing country
  • The organic market is a buyers/consumers driven market
  • The organic producers, processors, and traders are disjointed
  • The R&D investment is low on organic farming in our country although it is a significant development factor
  • Although the government should take the initiative from its end and  provide adequate incentives to promote sustainable agriculture in the country still there is fever incentives from the government’s side

Conclusion

The civil society sectors and NGOs requested the FSSAI to postpone its decision of enforcing the Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017. The current certification for organic food is costly and complicated, and that’s what the NGOs wants the FSSAI to reconsider.  That is the reason why they urged the regulatory body to defer its decision. Till date, the FSSAI has not taken any steps towards the NGOs’ requests. We will have to look forward in the coming future what the FSSAI will do to make the certification process of organic foods simpler and cheaper.

Also, Read: How to Apply for Basic FSSAI Registration.

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Tanya Verma

Tanya is working as writer & editor from past 2 years with experience in covering startup and technology related topics.

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