oppn parties Is FSSAI Compromising Its Position By Getting Big Food Companies To Sponsor Its Initiatives?

News Snippets

  • For the first time in history, Darjeeling loses first flush tea due to suspension of garden work for Covid-19 outbreak
  • Supreme Court asks journalists to be responsible and publish only the official version of news after it was brought to its notice that migrant exodus started after the 'fake' news that the lockdown will be extended to three months
  • Small saving rates slashed by the government by 140 basis points
  • The Centre says that the exodus of the migrants was stopped to save villages and prevent community transmission
  • The Centre says March 31 will remain the closing date for FY 2019-2020 and no change will be made for Covid-19 disruption
  • Tablighi Jamaat fiasco puts several states on high alert, attendees and their contacts being traced
  • Stock markets recover on the last day of the financial year, but the sentiment remains weak
  • The government says Covid-19 is still in local transmission stage in India
  • Government scotches rumours of extending the lockdown beyond April14. Says no such plan
  • Centre asks states to give shelter and food to migrant workers to stop them from taking to the streets
  • RBI cuts repo rate by 75 bps, the steepest in 10 years
  • Centre writes to states regarding laxity in monitoring people who had arrived from abroad between January and March
  • Kerala reports a spurt in new cases
  • With 124 fresh cases on Friday, the number of reported cases in India stand at 854
  • Five of a family, including a 9-month-old-baby test positive for Covid-19 in Nadia district in West Bengal on Friday
Total count stands ar 3082 as India records 16 Covid-19 deaths, the highest in a single day
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Is FSSAI Compromising Its Position By Getting Big Food Companies To Sponsor Its Initiatives?

By Linus Garg

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Linus tackles things head-on. He takes sides in his analysis and it fits excellently with our editorial policy. No 'maybe's' and 'allegedly' for him, only things in black and white.

Nowadays, conflict of interest has become a big issue. Anyone or anything seen as even remotely connected in any capacity to anyone or anything that it promotes or partners immediately raises concerns of conflict of interest. Hence, when it came to light that big food companies and trade organizations that represent the interests of these companies (and often lobby for them to get government policies suitably altered in their favour) were partnering the food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, FSSAI, in its various initiatives to educate the people about the right food to eat and get the companies to commit to lowering harmful ingredients in packaged food, activists and the media accused it of sleeping with the 'enemy'.

Obviously, and on the face of it, involving food companies in any of its initiatives immediately opens FSSAI to charges of conflict of interest. To cozy up (and take their money) to those whom one is expected to regulate is not a done thing. The initiatives which the FSSAI has taken up, like "Eat Right India", for instance, need a lot of awareness campaigns including media advertising and events. All such things cost lots of money. When such partnerships are struck with food companies, they will foot the bill. Also, such partnerships will mean that FSSAI officials and those of the food companies will remain in constant touch over long periods of time and forge friendships. These friendships can be used to influence the decisions of the food regulator in the future.

Of course, these are all just speculations. The FSSAI can obviously keep its regulatory role at a distance from its role as an educator. Even after taking money from the food companies, it can be strict with them and tell them that it is doing the work (of educating the consumer) that ideally they, or their trade bodies, should have done. It could impress upon them that unless they strictly adhere to the norms of lower harmful ingredients, they would be named and shamed. Instead of alleging that FSSAI is compromising its position, one can say that the regulator is doing the opposite by involving the food companies in the campaigns so that it can influence them in a positive way.