‘India needs to improve food product standards’

July 12th, 2008 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) India needs to improve the standards of its food products to acquire a competitive edge in the global market, says Sanjay Dave, the first Indian vice-chair of the Rome-based Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), an international organisation that aims at promoting food safety globally. Dave, also the director of India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), feels that his tenure as CAC vice-chair would see continuous deliberations to meet emerging challenges at home and abroad.

“There is no scope for any complacency when it comes to dealing with the issue of food product standards. International and domestic consumers are quite quality conscious. India and other developing nations need to improve standards of food products,” Dave told IANS in an interview.

India’s farm and processed food products’ exports have grown from Rs.6.47 billion in 1999-2000 to Rs.24.12 billion in 2006-07.

Major importers of Indian products like pomegranates, mangoes, onions and basmati rice are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Italy, Germany, Australia, Jordan, Bahrain, and Malaysia.

As capacity building is the key to ensuring food standards, the CAC intends to provide technical assistance to the developing nations so that the quality aspect is addressed right from the field.

“From proper monitoring of pesticide residue to the processing units, there is a need to be vigilant at all levels so that the end product is healthy and well received by consumers,” Dave maintained.

Dave said he would act aggressively to implement Codex Plan-2008-13, a vision document that speaks of consensus building and understanding food safety needs.

“For me, the vice-chair of CAC does not mean just holding a few meetings. I am committed to holding meeting and deliberating with all stakeholders throughout the year,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) created the Codex Alimentarius (Latin for food law or code) in 1963.

The CAC aims at developing food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the food standards programme of FAO and WHO, two bodies under the aegis of the United Nations.

His new position, however, does not mean that he will have less time for APEDA, the organisation he has headed for long.

“APEDA stands to benefit a lot from CAC and vice versa. Our great work at APEDA in managing quality of processed foods and agricultural products played a decisive role in my election,” he said.

APEDA is an autonomous body under India’s ministry of commerce and industry dealing with quality management of agricultural and processed foods, and promoting their export.

Dave was elected to the coveted post for a one-year tenure during CAC’s 31st session in June 30-July 4. He polled 108 votes.

The two other vice-chairs - Ben Manyindo from Uganda and Knud Ostergaard from Denmark - got 106 and 102 votes respectively.

“In the name of the election campaign, I explained India’s efforts in protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in food trade, and how we have adopted Codex guidelines,” he said.

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