In light of the outbreak and rapid spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease, hygiene has become an issue of great importance to the world at large, and India’s food regulatory authority, the FSSAI is no exception. The body has taken the increased awareness around hygiene as an opportunity to improve inclusive action, side by side by its initiative to step up audits in the past few months.
FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal stated to reporters that the authority has been auditing meat and fish shops, as well as slaughterhouses for quite some time now, and has picked up the pace of operations in the past six to eight months, even taking steps to improve the hygiene of these markets.
Agarwal stressed that the hygiene of these shops is critical; his claim bolstered by the fact that the coronavirus outbreak reportedly originated at such a meat market in Wuhan. “Slaughtering meat products in India requires a lot of hygiene up-gradation,” he said, speaking to reporters outside the food regulatory authority’s offices in Ghaziabad on Monday.
He went on to detail the work done by FSSAI to date, dividing it into phases. The first phase entailed conducting audits of all municipal slaughterhouses and in phase two, auditing all the slaughterhouses in the country. The organization even created a standard operating procedure for certifying meat shops and providing hygiene ratings under its new system.
Hygiene ratings for meat shops are a new introduction to the FSSAI plans on implementing and have even got several state governments involved. The authority also offered to fund the hygiene ratings of 50 meat shops to kickstart the process.
In relation to the coronavirus outbreak, Agarwal pointed out that the problem was not affecting Indian meat markets, but he wants to “leverage that (current awareness about the coronavirus) to improve the hygiene and conditions of our own meat and fish markets.”
An expansion of the FSSAI is also currently underway, as their offices, as well as their food testing labs, are being improved and upgraded. This expansion will entail six new branch offices, four new import offices, and two new food testing labs. This would not only improve general functioning but also allow them to monitor items in the import market for greater security.