Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

Nov, 08, 2019

[op-ed snap] Junking fast food: On norms against food rich in fat, sugar and salt


FSSAI has notified a draft regulation aimed at changing dietary habits.


    • Ban on advertising and sales – It prohibits the sale and advertisement of food rich in fat, sugar, and salt to schoolchildren inside the school premises and within 50 m around it.
    • Promote a balanced diet – It requires schools to simultaneously encourage and promote a safe and balanced diet.
    • Ban on unhealthy foods – To shield the children from consuming unhealthy food items and snacks, FSSAI prohibits food companies that manufacture such items from advertising or offering such foods in school premises and within 50 m of the campus.
    • No branding – Food companies are prohibited from using their logos, brand names and product names on books and other educational materials, as well as on school property such as buildings, buses, and athletic fields. 
    • Health recommendations – The agency recommends the use of a combination of whole grains, milk, eggs, and millets.
    • Food products – It also listed a set of general guidelines for the selection of food products that can be offered in schools.

A shift in the direction

    • Court order – The 2015 order from the Delhi High Court directed the central agency to frame norms to promote healthy diets in schools.
    • Malnutrition – malnutrition accounted for over seven lakh (68%) deaths in children under the age of five years in 2017 in India.
    • Obesity – There is rising obesity in schoolchildren in many States. According to a July 2017 study, India had the second most number of obese children among 195 countries. 
    • More overweight children – A recent study found 23 States to have child overweight prevalence more than the national average. 6 States have a prevalence of over 20%. 
    • Impact of western diets – Several studies have shown how a western diet affects the composition and diversity of gut bacteria and sets the stage for many metabolic diseases. 


    • Enforcement – The challenge will be in enforcement, in preventing the sale and promotion of unhealthy food near schools. 
    • Despite the sale and advertisement of tobacco products within 100 yards of a school being prohibited, the violation is more the norm than the exception. Shops that sell tobacco products very often also sell many of the packaged unhealthy foods.
    • Inculcating habits – inculcating healthy eating habits starts at home. 

Way ahead

    • Schools and parents should ensure children get adequate physical activity.
    • A combination of healthy food and regular physical activity will go a long way in bringing up healthy children.
Oct, 22, 2019

[op-ed snap] Safe, but not entirely


The “most comprehensive and representative” milk safety and quality survey has demolished the perception of large-scale milk adulteration in India. 

Data from the survey 

  • It was undertaken on 6,432 samples collected last year between May and October.
  • It was picked from over 1,100 towns /cities with over 50,000 population.
  • The survey was done by an independent agency at the behest of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
  • It was found that 93% of the samples were absolutely safe. 
  • The samples were tested for 13 common adulterants and three contaminants — pesticides, aflatoxin M1 and antibiotics. 
  • Only 12 adulterated samples were found to be unsafe for consumption. 
  • The adulterated samples were also subjected to confirmatory tests. They were from just three States: Telangana (nine), Madhya Pradesh (two) and Kerala (one). 
  • As per the survey, the quantitative analysis of all adulterated samples showed that the amount of adulterants and contaminants in the dozen samples was not high and “unlikely to pose a serious threat” to human health. 
  • It found 368 samples (5.7%) had aflatoxin M1 residues beyond the permissible limit of 0.5 microgram per kilogram. 
  • Compared with aflatoxin M1, antibiotics were seen above the permissible level in 77 samples, from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Aflatoxin M1 was more widely present in processed milk samples than in raw milk. 
  • This is the first time the presence of the contaminant in milk has been assessed. 


  • According to the FSSAI, aflatoxin M1 in milk is from feed and fodder, which is not regulated. 
  • According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer the contaminant has been classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. 
  • Its carcinogenic potency is estimated to be about one-tenth of aflatoxin B1. 
  • The current survey has limited itself to milk. It is not clear how widespread aflatoxin M1 contamination is in milk products such as cheese. 
  • Aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is a public health concern especially in infants and young children as milk constitutes one of the major sources of nutrients. 
  • According to the World Health Organisation, exposure to aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is especially high in areas where the grain quality used as animal feed is poor. 


  • All attempts need to be taken both before and after food crop harvest to reduce the toxin amount. 
  • Improper storage of food harvest in warm and humid conditions lead to aflatoxin contamination that is much higher than what is seen in the field.
  • It is important is to have facilities to regularly test for aflatoxin M1.
Oct, 17, 2019

[pib] Food Safety Mitra (FSM) Scheme


  • Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the ‘Food Safety Mitra (FSM)’ scheme, along with the ‘Eat Right Jacket’, and ‘Eat Right Jhola’ to strengthen food safety administration and scale up the ‘Eat Right India’ movement.

FSM scheme

  • The scheme will support small and medium scale food businesses to comply with the food safety laws and facilitate licensing and registration, hygiene ratings and training.
  • Apart from strengthening food safety, this scheme would also create new employment opportunities for youth, particularly with food and nutrition background.
  • The FSMs would undergo training and certification by FSSAI to do their work and get paid by food businesses for their services.

Eat Right Jacket

  • The ‘Eat Right Jacket’ will be used by the field staff.
  • This jacket has a smart design to hold tech devices like tablets/smart phone, a QR code and RFID tag for identification and tracking.

Eat Right Jhola

  • The ‘Eat Right Jhola’, a reusable cloth bag shall replace plastic bags for grocery shopping in various retail chains.
  • Since on repeated use, bags are often contaminated with microorganisms and bacteria, proper and regular washing of cloth bags is essential to ensure safety and hygiene.
  • These cloth bags are being provided on rental basis through a private textile rental service company.
Aug, 08, 2019

Five new rights you get as a consumer


Consumer Protection Bill passed in Rajya Sabha


  1. More responsibility on companies for misleading advertising and faulty products
  2. Lays out penalties for celebrities endorsing or promoting false advertising and adulterated goods

Additional consumer rights

    1. file a complaint with the District Consumer Commission or State Consumer Commission from your place of residence or work instead of filing at a place of purchase or where the seller has its registered office
    2. A complaint can also be filed by a recognized consumer body or by multiple consumers with the same interest
    3. Consumer affairs ministry will frame rules for the filing of complaints electronically and will also specify norms for paying the required fee digitally
    1. Can file a case against a product manufacturer or seller for any loss caused on account of a defective product. This applies to all services as well
    2. The manufacturer shall be held liable if there is a manufacturing defect or if there is a deviation from the manufacturing specifications or the product does not conform to the express warranty
    3. Recognizes “sharing personal information of consumers” as an unfair trade practice
    1. A complaint relating to the violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices or misleading advertisements prejudicial to the interests of consumers may be forwarded either in writing or in electronic mode to any one of the authorities — district collector or commissioner of regional office or Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) for class action
    1. Every complaint shall be heard by district commission on the basis of documentary evidence placed before it
    2. the commission can allow an application made for hearing or for an examination of parties through video conference
    1. The commission cannot reject a complaint without hearing the complainant
    2. Commission has to decide about admitting or rejecting a complaint within 21 days
    3. If the commission doesn’t decide within the time limit, it shall be deemed to have been admitted
    4. The commission can direct both parties to give their consent to have the dispute settled through mediation


  1. Endorser exercised due diligence to verify the veracity of the claims made in the advertisement regarding the product or service being endorsed
  2. The publisher has done an advertisement in the ordinary course of his business

Grey areas

  1. The government removed healthcare as one of the services to make the bill ‘non-controversial’
  2. While the CCPA will be a central regulator for consumer issues, there are other regulators for various sectors like telecom, insurance, which leaves the scope for overlapping jurisdictions and confusion
  3. The law proposes a 21-day deadline for hearing complaints, but 118 posts of president of consumer commissions and 362 posts of commission members are lying vacant in 596 districts

Other penalties

  1. Adulteration
    1. No injury to consumer – Up to 6 months jail with up to Rs 1 lakh fine
    2. Causes injury – Up to 1 year in jail & fine up to Rs 3 lakh
    3. Grievous injury – Up to 7 years in jail & fine up to Rs 5 lakh
  2. Non Compliance
    1. Failure to comply with an order of CCPA – Up to 6 months in jail/jail with fines up to Rs 20 lakh or both
    2. Failure to comply with orders of the district, state or national commission – Jail from 1 month – to 3 years/jail with fine from Rs 25,000 up to Rs 1 lakh or both
May, 20, 2019

[op-ed snap] The Salt Example


India has been able to dramatically reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty from 306 million people living on less than $1.90 (on a PPP basis) a day in 2011 to 48 million today. However, it is puzzling as to why the country has been unable to show a similar dynamism in its record against malnutrition.

The situation regarding malnutrition in the country

  • Despite major government interventions — including providing highly subsidised foodgrains to the poorest 67 per cent of the population under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), a free Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDM) that targets around 100 million students in government schools and a supplementary nutrition programme through the ICDS network — the country is home to the largest number of malnourished children in the world.
  • In the decade between 2005-06 and 2015-16, stunting declined at the rate of 0.9 per cent per annum.

Anaemia is widespread

  • Though anaemia among children has declined, it affects every second child in the country.
  • There has been no perceptible decline in anaemia among 15 to 49-year old women; it affects around 60 per cent of them. This public health emergency needs to be addressed immediately.

Reasons for widespread anaemia

  • Poverty, gender disparity, poor sanitation, low health and nutrition service coverage and poor nutritional intake — particularly an iron-deficient diet — continue to impede our fight against anaemia.
  • The daily consumption of iron rich dark green leafy vegetables has reduced from 64 per cent to 48 per cent of the population in the last decade.
  • Many, in fact, argue that the NFSA’s focus on wheat and rice has forced millets — traditional source for iron and minerals — out of the market.
  • The government’s iron supplementation programme to overcome IDA has led to only 30 per cent of pregnant women consuming iron and folic acid tablets.
  • This compels us to think of simpler and effective strategies like fortification of food staples with essential micronutrients like iron and vitamin.

Food fortification as a solution

  • Food fortification is a largely-ignored, yet critical, strategy which has proved an effective, affordable, scalable and sustainable intervention in many countries.
  • India too has tested this idea when it successfully tackled the widespread problem of goitre by mandating iodised salt in 1962.
  • As there are numerous programmes to address malnutriton, this simple idea of fortifying meals has the potential to reach every segment of the population.
  • The Women and Child Development and Human Resource Development ministries have issued advisories to the states to mandatorily use fortified wheat flour and edible oil in ICDS and MDM. 

Fortification of Rice

  • Supply of fortified rice through a network of fair price shops is a cost-effective intervention to address anaemia across all sections of the population.
  • Evaluations in Odisha’s Gajapati district, which experimented with fortified rice in MDM, found that the incidence of anaemia has reduced by 20 per cent between 2012 and 2015, of which 6 per cent reduction can be directly attributable to fortification.
  • The Department of Food and Public Distribution, facilitated by the NITI Aayog, has recently launched a centrally-sponsored scheme on rice fortification in PDS.


Dependence on political will – A successful pan-India scale up of fortification will depend on many factors — the political will of state governments, flexibility to allow states to adapt the fortification model to their procurement and distribution systems and capacity building of different stakeholders.

 Strengthening role of FSSAI – The FSSAI’s role, its enforcement machinery and the quality control labs needs to be strengthened.

Generation of awareness among people -Lastly and most crucially, sustainability of fortification depends on the regular consumption of fortified food by the consumers and thus a comprehensive state specific strategy should be developed to generate awareness among the consumers.

Apr, 26, 2019

India extends ban on import of Chinese milk products, chocolates


  • The government has extended the ban on import of milk and its products, including chocolates, from China till laboratories at ports for testing presence of toxic chemical melamine are upgraded.

Ban over Melamine

  • Food regulator FSSAI had recommended extending the ban until all labs at ports are modernized to test the chemical.
  • The ban was first imposed in September 2008 and extended subsequently from time to time.
  • Although India does not import milk, milk products from China, it has imposed the ban as a preventive measure.
  • However, it has not mentioned any timeline for upgradation of that capacity of all laboratories.

Why Ban?

  • Melamine content of more than 1 ppm in infant formula and more than 2.5 ppm in other foods should be viewed with suspicion of adulteration.
  • Addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/ WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities.
  • Chinese milk scandal: In 2008, at least four babies in China died and around 100,000 became sick after consuming powdered milk baby food laced with melamine.

About Melamine

  • Melamine is a chemical compound that has a number of industrial uses, including the production of laminates, glues, dinnerware, adhesives, molding compounds, coatings and flame retardants.
  • It is a name used both for the chemical and for the plastic made from it. In this event, all references are to the chemical.
  • It is illegally added to inflate the apparent protein content of food products.
  • Because it is high in nitrogen, the addition of melamine to a food artificially increases the apparent protein content as measured with standard tests.


Milk Production in India

  • India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk. It produces around 150 million tonne milk annually.
  • Uttar Pradesh is the leading state in milk production followed by Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Apr, 05, 2019

EAT-Lancet Report for a sustainable food system


  • One of the most influential public health documents of this decade, the EAT-Lancet Commission’s Food Planet Health, was formally released for India.

EAT-Lancet Report

  • The report stated that transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts.
  • The report was authored by 37 international experts, including two from India, has been put together by EAT, the science-based global platform for food system transformation, and the journal The Lancet .

Highlights of the report

  • The EAT-Lancet Commission’s report, for the first time proposes scientific targets for what constitutes a healthy diet derived from a sustainable food system.
  • It added that healthy diets had an optimal caloric intake and consisted largely of a diversity of plant-based foods and low amounts of animal-source foods, contained unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and limited amounts of refined grains, highly processed foods and added sugars.
  • The report also called for doubling in the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and a greater than 50 per cent reduction in global consumption of less healthy foods.
  • EAT-Lancet also proposed a country-specific report for a reference diet for India, which was supported by the country’s apex food regulator, which stated that the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad.
Feb, 14, 2019

Kerala takes the lead in tackling trans fat hazard


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra, Heart Attack Rewind, TFA

Mains level: Read the attached story.


  • The Kerala state Health Department has drawn up an action plan to generate public awareness on the harmful effects of trans fatty acids (TFA) in commercially available food items.

Plan to phase out TFA

  1. The plan is aimed to encourage the local food industry to meet the current statutory limits set for TFA.
  2. An unhealthy diet with a high TFA content is a significant factor that pushes up metabolic syndrome and the burden of its associated complications amongst Keralites.
  3. The year-long action plan has specific components on building awareness on trans fat amongst food business operators (FBOs) and giving them scientific sessions and training on how they can keep their food TFA-free.
  4. Generating public awareness on the harmful effects of trans fat, especially among schoolchildren, is being given special focus.
  5. Clear timelines are being set as to when each of the components of the plan should be completed and when enforcement should begin.

Focus on low Sodium content food

  1. Salt being a major contributor to hypertension and stroke, the action plan also plans to address the high salt content in processed foods, pickles, papads and condiments by encouraging manufacturers to move to low sodium options.
  2. The pickle industry is in agreement that good hygienic and manufacturing practices and low sodium options can reduce the salt content in their products.

Need for alternatives

  1. The food industry is willing to ditch partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVOs, one of the main sources of TFA in industrially produced food ).
  2. It aims to switch to TFA-free margarine or shortening to produce baked goods.

Support for initiative

  1. The department is being supported in this initiative by Vital Strategies, the nutrition wing of the World Bank, WHO, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
  2. The State Food Safety wing will be in charge of enforcement.
  3. An experts’ group has been constituted for the implementation of the guidelines on TFA and salt reduction.


Trans Fats

Dec, 01, 2018

FSSAI launches awareness drive on trans fats


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra, Heart Attack Rewind

Mains level: Read the attached story.


  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched a new mass media campaign in order to create awareness about trans fats and eliminate them in India by 2022.

Heart Attack Rewind

  1. It is a 30-second public service announcement to be broadcast in 17 languages for a period of four weeks on YouTube, Facebook, Hotstar, and Voot.
  2. It will also be placed on outdoor hoardings and run on radio stations in Delhi and the National Capital Region.
  3. The campaign will warn citizens about the health hazards of consuming trans fats and offer strategies to avoid them through healthier alternatives.
  4. This campaign will concentrate on the demand side (consumers), who in turn, will push the supply side (food manufacturers) to come up with various strategies in order to reduce and later replace trans fats.

What are Trans Fats?

  1. Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
  2. Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.

Why this move?

  1. Studies have recently shown that 60,000 deaths occur every year due to cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are caused due to high consumption of trans fats.
  2. Since the impact of trans fats on human health is increasing exponentially, it is very important to create awareness about them.

Other FSSAI Initiatives

  1. Heart Attack Rewind is a follow-up to an earlier campaign called “Eat Right”, which was launched on July 11, 2018.
  2. As part of the campaign, edible oil industries took a pledge to reduce trans fat content by 2 per cent by 2022.
  3. Later, food companies also took a pledge to reformulate packaged foods with reduced levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat.
  4. Swasth Bharat Yatra, an initiative started under the “Eat Right” campaign which started on October 16 and will end on January 27, 2019, will also seek to create awareness among citizens about trans fats.

A Move to adopt WHO guidelines

  1. In May this year, the WHO released a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.
  2. Since then, a lot of countries have made efforts to reduce the levels of trans fats and in some cases, have completely banned them.
  3. India is also moving towards same by first reducing the levels from 5 per cent to 2 per cent and then altogether by 2022.
Oct, 18, 2018

'Swastha Bharat Yatra' campaign to create awareness about safe food


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra

Mains level: Read the attached story.



  • The government has launched a national campaign ‘Swastha Bharat Yatra’ on the World Food Day under which a pan-India cycle rally is being organised to sensitize people about eating safe food and be healthy.

Swastha Bharat Yatra

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is leading this campaign where about 7,500 cyclists are expected to participate in over 18,000 km relay.
  2. The cycle rally will travel across six tracks through almost every state and UT over 100 days to propagate a powerful message ‘Eat Right India’.
  3. The cyclathon will culminate in the national capital on January 27.

Activities under the Yatra

  1. Along with a bicycle convoy, there will be ‘Eat Right Mobile Unit’ and ‘Mobile Food Testing Unit’ to build awareness around food safety, combating food adulteration and healthy diets.
  2. In all, over 7,500 volunteer cyclists would stop at 2,000+ locations and conduct in-city and en-route activities and ‘Prabhat Pheris’ to propagate the message of Eat Right India.
Oct, 16, 2018

[op-ed snap] From food security to nutrition security


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Public Distribution System – objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks & food security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biofortification, HarvestPlus programme

Mains level: Need for nutritional security in India


World food day

  1. October 16 is observed as the World Food Day to mark the creation of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1945
  2. The world body envisions a “zero hunger world” by 2030
  3. It’s important to understand the role of science and technology in ushering the Green Revolution, which ensured food security in India
  4. Today, similar innovations in biotechnology hold the promise to provide nutrition security

Impact of Green Revolution

  1. While the country’s population has grown by more than four times, from 330 million in 1947 to 1.35 billion in 2018, India’s wheat production has increased by over 15 times in roughly the same period — from about 6.5 MMT in 1950-51 to 99.7 MMT in 2017-18
  2. India contributes about 13 per cent of the world wheat production, next only to China whose share is about 17 per cent
  3. Rice production has shot up by about 5.5 times — from 20.6 MMT in 1950-51 to 112.9 MMT in 2017-18
  4. India has a 23 per cent share in world rice production, next only to China whose share is about 29 per cent
  5. India is also the largest exporter of rice in the world

Challenge of nutritional security

  1. Notwithstanding its foodgrain surpluses, the country faces a complex challenge of nutritional security
  2. FAO’s recent publication, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018 estimates that about 15 per cent of the Indian population is undernourished
  3. More than 38 per cent of Indian children aged below five years are stunted and 21 per cent suffer from wasting

Factors behind malnutirition

  1. Poor diet
  2. Unsafe drinking water
  3. Poor hygiene and sanitation
  4. Low levels of immunisation and education, especially that of women

Solutions for reducing malnutrition

  1. Latest innovations in biotechnology that fortify major staples with micronutrients like vitamin A, zinc and iron can be game changers
  2. Globally, the HarvestPlus programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is doing a lot of work in this direction
  3. In India, the group has released the iron-rich pearl millet
  4. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has independently released zinc and iron-rich wheat, rice, and pearl millet in 2016-17
  5. This could possibly lead to the next breakthrough in staples, making them more nutritious

Way forward

  1. This seems to be the beginning of a new journey, from food security to nutritional security
  2. Innovations in biofortified food can alleviate malnutrition only when they are scaled up with supporting policies
  3. This would require increasing expenditure on agri-R&D and incentivising farmers by linking their produce to lucrative markets
Jun, 06, 2018

Fortified rice will be distributed through PDS


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre & States & the performance of these schemes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biofortification

Mains level: Nutrition levels in India and government policies and schemes for their improvement


Improving nutrition via PDS

  1. Union Food Ministry is mulling over a proposal to distribute fortified rice through the public distribution system
  2. Rice will be fortified with essential vitamins and minerals



  1. Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food
  2. This is done to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health
  3. Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology
  4. Biofortification differs from conventional fortification in that biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops
Oct, 21, 2017

[op-ed snap] Hungry for publicity



Mains Paper 3: Economy | Inclusive growth & issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Tendulkar poverty line, IFPRI hunger index

Mains level: Various indices showing India in poor condition and reality behind these surveys


  1. India ranks 100th out of 119 countries on the global hunger index – behind North Korea, Bangladesh, and Iraq but ahead of Pakistan
  2. The report ranked 119 countries in the developing world, nearly half of which have ‘extremely alarming’, ‘alarming’ or ‘serious’ hunger levels

Previous stats of poverty and differences in calculation

  1. Absolute poverty in India in 2011/12 came out to be around 12 percent, not 23 percent as officially reported (Tendulkar poverty line)
  2. The difference between 23 and 12 percent is the difference in measurement of consumption measured on a 30-day recall basis for food rather than the more accurate seven-day recall basis

IFPRI’s Hunger Index

  1. IFPRI hunger index is not a hunger index at all
  2. It is an index about child mortality, and stunting, and wasting, and undernourishment of children

What do we require to address hunger?

  1. A definition of hunger is needed to evaluate policies to alleviate hunger
  2. The conventional approach is to measure hunger via calorie consumption 
  3. However, the caloric equation (poverty means low consumption of calories) has long been given up as an indicator of hunger, or much else

What is the problem in India?

  1. Malnutrition affects stunting and weight and despite having considerably higher per capita income, India has the same IFPRI nutrition (reported as hunger) status as sub-Saharan Africa
  2. There is a genuine nutrition absorption problem in India
  3. The most likely cause of this is bad sanitation, a large component of which is open-defecation
  4. In the Indian environment, access to water and toilets, breastfeeding (to impart immunity in an unhealthy environment), access to sound health advice/treatment, the prevalence of vaccination and availability of vitamin supplements” are indicators of bad health, malnutrition etc.

Moves to address this problem

  1. In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi started the drive to stop open defecation and said that we needed to do so from the ramparts of the Red Fort
  2. A few years from now, the large role played by toilet construction, and adoption, in increasing nutrition efficacy in India to East Asian levels will be visible
Aug, 08, 2017

Food security: SC raps Centre, States

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of Food Security Act

Mains level: The article gives important facts regarding the implementation of the act. Important Judgement on an important welfare scheme.


Implementation of Food Security Act in different states

  1. According to SC judgement, the State Food Commission set up under the National Food Security Act in Haryana, has been sitting “jobless” and “without proper infrastructure
  2. Why: Due to the state government’s dull response to the Act

Other observations

  1. The judgment also listed nine other States viz. Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh
  2. Why: Due to their dull response to the food security law meant to help those living below the poverty line

Directions from SC

  1. The SC directed the government to frame rules and designate independent officials for a grievance redressal mechanism under the Act within a year
  2. It directed the states to set up State Food Commissions and vigilance committees in every state by the end of the year and set up a social audit machinery


Sep, 29, 2016

What's the issue with melamine in milk?

  1. Melamine: An organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen
  2. Use: Widely in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware, whiteboards
  3. FSSAI: Melamine content of more than 1 ppm in infant formula and more than 2.5 ppm in other foods should be viewed with suspicion of adulteration
  4. Addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/ WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities
  5. Chinese milk scandal: In 2008, at least four babies in China died and around 100,000 became sick after consuming powdered milk baby food laced with melamine
  6. Due to the presence of nitrogen, the addition of melamine to milk makes it look protein-rich
Aug, 23, 2016

FSSAI wants to regulate quality of tap water

  1. News: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is examining the possibility of holding municipal authorities and other agencies such as state water supply boards accountable for the quality of water they supply
  2. Background: The Central Consumer Protection Council has expressed concern over the quality of drinking water supplied through the pipeline
  3. It has recommended mandatory standards for drinking water, irrespective of its source
  4. Census 2011: Just about 32% of India’s households have access to treated tap water (supplied through pipelines) and around 11.5% households get untreated water
Jul, 07, 2016

Food grain production growth to slow in India

  1. News: Though the demand for most food commodities in India is set to grow by 2025, it would at a slower rate as compared to 2005-15, according to UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
  2. Reasons: Gradually slowing rate of population growth
  3. Rising household income may lead to product substitution for meeting caloric requirements. For eg, consumption of cereals might be substituted by vegetable oils, sugar and livestocks
  4. Rising food prices whereby a small section of the population will find food unaffordable and thus decrease consumption – requires policy attention
Jun, 21, 2016

CSE report on carcinogenic food additives

  1. A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report has found that two potential cancer causing chemicals have been widely found in bread variants across India
  2. Potassium bromate and potassium iodate helps make the break fluffier and softer
  3. Potassium bromate typically increases dough strength, leads to higher rising and gives uniform finish to baked products
  4. Potassium iodate is a flour treatment agent
  5. The CSE study had found that 84% of the 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged breads, including pav and buns, tested positive for the 2 additives
  6. The two food additives are banned in many countries and are listed as ‘hazardous’ to public health
Jun, 21, 2016

Use of potassium bromate as food additive banned

  1. News: The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has banned the use of potassium bromate as a food additive
  2. Context: A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study had earlier found that presence of potassium bromate and potassium iodate in bread caused cancer
  3. Potassium iodate has not been banned yet and has been referred to a scientific panel
Jun, 18, 2016

India must transform its unorganised food system: U.S. think-tank- II

  1. Supply system: Areas of improvement- transit, warehousing, cold chains, retail and processing that could improve urban food security in India
  2. Feeding cities: Increasing urban employment and rising incomes portend significant growth for India’s $360-billion food market
  3. Investment: Targeted public investments and involvement of private sector
  4. It has also recommended reduction of regulatory complexity and enhancing food testing capacity
Jun, 18, 2016

India must transform its unorganised food system: U.S. think-tank- I

  1. Context: ‘Investing to Nourish India’s Cities’, a report by American think-tank, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  2. India’s food system is largely unorganised and highly fragmented inhibiting large-scale procurement, distribution, and retail sales
  3. Urban: India’s population is set to double in the next 40 years & with growing urbanisation, India has to transform its food system to feed that urban growth
  4. Need: Reform government procurement, tariff and tax policies affecting urban food delivery to feed its growing cities
  5. Also, substantial public investments are needed to expand and increase the quality of storage, handling and transportation infrastructure
May, 25, 2016

Potassium bromate in same cancer class as coffee

  1. Context: Concerns over potassium bromate being found in breads in Delhi
  2. Potassium bromate: It is a chemical additive widely prevalent in bread and refined flour and associated with cancer
  3. It is in the same category as coffee, aloe vera, mobile phone radiation and carbon black (a key ingredient in eye-liner)
  4. It is less toxic than processed and red meat
  5. Data: List of agents deemed potentially cancerous by the International Agency For Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO body
May, 24, 2016

GM seeds key to food security: Javadekar

  1. Context: Environmental minister has said that GM technology for seeds is important for agricultural development
  2. It will improve agricultural productivity and food security
  3. Criticism: GM crops are unfit for human consumption
  4. A Panel is set up by Environment Ministry to take a call on GM mustard
  5. GM Mustard: First food-related transgenic crop
Apr, 06, 2016

Govt releases Rs 25,800-crore food subsidy to FCI

  1. What? The Centre has released Rs 25,834 crore as food subsidy to the Food Corporation of India (FCI)
  2. Benefit: Will help in smooth procurement and distribution of grains
  3. The bulk of the food subsidy is paid to FCI to buy foodgrain at the support price and running the public distribution system
Oct, 02, 2015

Mid-Day Meal Rules out: Stress on quality, regularity

The Mid-Day Meal Rules, 2015 seeks to fix responsibility on persons for non-supply of food for three consecutive school days or five days in a month.

According to the new rule, a student is entitled for Food Security Allowance if meals are not served for in the school. Photo: M.A. Sriram


  1. The National Food Security Act, 2013, contains provisions related to welfare schemes, including the mid-day meal scheme.
  2. Food security allowance will be paid to beneficiaries under the temporary fund utilization in case of non-supply of meal for specified reasons.
  3. To check meal quality provided in the rules, it will be tested randomly on monthly basis by accredited Labs. 
  4. Child of age group of 6 to 14 years old studying in classes from I to VIII standard provided hot cooked meal with nutritional standards.
  5. Mandatory for schools to have facility for cooking meal in hygienic manner. Schools in urban areas may use the facility of centralised kitchens.
Aug, 14, 2015

Maggi ban: High Court lifts ban, orders fresh tests within 6 weeks

  1. Maggi could soon be back on sale after the Bombay High Court lifted the nation-wide ban on Maggi noodles, subject to fresh tests.
  2. Court observed FSSAI acted in an arbitrary manner and not followed the principles of natural justice while banning the product.
  3. The food labs engaged by the FSSAI, which found excessive lead in Maggi noodles, were not authorised under the FSS Act and Regulations.
Aug, 02, 2015

FSSAI gets 3 months to finalise guidelines controlling sale of junk food around schools


  1. Acting on a public interest writ petition, the Delhi HC had earlier directed FSSAI to regulate sale of foods high in salt, fats and sugar in and around 50 metres of schools.
  2. Court also directed CBSE to consider including the adherence to these guidelines while giving affiliation to the schools.
  3. The draft guidelines suggested creation of a canteen policy and education program to inform students and parents of link between ‘High in fats, salt & sugar’ (HFSS) foods and non-communicable diseases like obesity, hypertension, diabetes etc.
Jul, 23, 2015

FSSAI can act on mere suspicion

  1. FSSAI told the Bombay High Court that FSSAI Act gives the power to the authorities to act on mere suspicion, without any concrete evidence.
  2. FSSAI vs Nestle case is in Bombay High Court for 3 apparent violations by Nestle – misleading labelling on monosodium-glutamate, presence of excessive lead in maggi and launching oats tastemaker without assessment.



Jul, 13, 2015

[Discuss] What are the questions raised by the Maggi crisis?


The real story is of a regulator that has lacked the resources and know-how to safeguard public health.

A brief history on how the food regulation came about in India:

  1. Until 2006, a myriad laws and regulatory bodies were responsible for determining and enforcing quality and health standards.
  2. This got replaced by (FSSAI) which, since becoming operational in 2011, became the central regulatory authority responsible for food safety in India.

FSSAI’s job, in its own words, is to lay down “science-based standards” for the manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale and import of food in India.

But interestingly, the ground reality is this –

  1. Despite all the detailed guidelines, the law does not make testing of food products before approval mandatory.
  2. Whether or not a product should be approved for sale and consumption is based almost entirely on scientific analysis provided by the manufacturers themselves, and not on that done by FSSAI.
  3. Another major issue is that FSSAI virtually has no enforcement mechanism to speak of.

    Hence the discussion of the day – 

What are the different aspects of food security and organisation level challenges that plague India? What reality has India’s regulators risen to in the wake of the Maggi fiasco?



Jul, 13, 2015

FSSAI sets 12,000 standards for food additives & ingredients


  1. These are in line with global safety standards, to do away with lengthy process of product approval.
  2. At present, there are 375 FSSAI safety standards for food items but none for food additives and ingredients.
  3. This move will help the food companies as they won’t have to waste much time scouting for product approval.
Jun, 27, 2015

[cd explains] Food Safety in India


Jun, 25, 2015

[Discuss] Is India still far from food safety?

This topic will be LIVE for discussion for a day & we will prepare a story from the user comments. Good contributions will be highlighted in the story page.

Open Discussion

Jun, 16, 2015

[cd explains] The curious case of Mono Sodium Glutamate


Jun, 15, 2015

Key Points: How labelling cooked Maggi’s goose

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) identified 3 problems –
    • Lead levels higher than the permissible quantity of 2.5 ppm (parts per million).
    • Misleading labelling on the package that stated “No added MSG”.
    • Release of “Maggi Oats Masala Noodle with Tastemaker” without product approval.
  2. The REAL DEAL – Maggi noodles sold in India contain hydrolysed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour, all of which contain glutamate. MSG is a sodium salt of glutamate.
Jun, 04, 2015

[op-ed snap] Two-minute bans

  1. Maggi alarm must push government towards greater alertness & stringent processes on food safety.
  2. A similar instance led to formation of JPC which prescribed standards for carbonated water, owing to charges of pesticides in fizzy drinks in a CSE study.
  3. Government responses to the problem of food safety is sporadic & spurred by sudden alarms.
  4. The govt. is promising a tough law to deal with the production of harmful food products and new commissions to replace consumer forums.
  5. The present day controversy acquired a new clamour, when FIRs were registered against brand ambassadors, unravelling a new thread of responsibility.

Jun, 03, 2015

Why prosecuting Maggi brand ambassadors makes no sense

Punishing brand ambassadors shows that the government is only interested in going after the low hanging fruits.

It took the government 54 years & a court case to get rid of rat shit in your most basic food items (read Public Distribution system). But I do not recall any politician who extolled the PDS system being pulled up for it.

How, then, can Bachchan or Dixit or Zinta be held responsible for a faulty batch of Maggi made in UP? If someone detects a higher level of petroleum jelly in say, Lux soap, should all heroines who endorse it or have ever done so, be hauled into court?

Apr, 07, 2015

Is your food safe enough?

This year, WHO’s theme is ‘Food Safety’ – To ensure that everyone has the answers to a few questions: What is in your meal and where did the ingredients come from?

  1. WHO is concerned about streamlining the supply chain and stressing on stakeholders to promote food safety.
  2. The approach to food safety requires multi-sectoral collaboration, as it passes through multiple hands from farm to plates.
  3. As groundwater resources deplete & put pressure on other factor, farm markets shift to ‘chemically managed’ crops.
  4. The increasing disregard for food safety norms is based on multiple factors including lack of awareness and training, absence of compliance or plain corruption.

Mar, 31, 2015

Safe food, from the farm to the plate

Food safety is critical for public health as food-borne diseases affect people’s well-being, strain health-care systems, and adversely impact national economies, tourism and trade.

  1. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly and the sick.
  2. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly and the sick.
  3. The emergence of street foods assumes public health significance, as a source of food-borne diseases.
  4. Establish a network of food safety authorities at national/international level, to promote exchange of food safety information and improve collaboration.
  5. Incorporation of food safety in disaster mgmt. programmes and emergencies, due to likelihood of food in the affected areas getting contaminated and causing outbreaks of foodborne disease.
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