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India


SJM seeks CBI probe into FSSAI notification on fortified foods based on imported, synthetic vitamins

New Delhi, Aug 20 (UNI) The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Monday came under severe criticism from different stakeholders, including medical researchers and industry, for pushing ''undesired fortified foods based on imported and synthetics vitamins,'' through its recent notifications.
At a meeting organised by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, participants expressed the apprehension that recent notifications of FSSAI on fortification based on 100 per cent imported and synthetic vitamins hurt public health, specially infants, lactating mothers, sensitive consumer groups, patients and many other stakeholders.

Demanding a CBI inquiry into the entire process and the officers involved in the 'anti-people' move, co-convener of SJM Ashwani Mahajan said that an RTI application filed by them revealed that it was not the FSSAI's mandate to issue notification on fortified foods (salt, edible oil, flour and milk) and sign MoU with companies.
Instead of better diet and natural nutrients, the push for MNC-produced synthetic vitamins decided by an expert committee that had no notable Indian representation, has raised charges of 'conflict of interest'.
''The investigation should also focus on how few foreign-funded NGOS are able to manipulate food safety and standards policy of India. How they could partner with FSSAI on sensitive matters, when there is no Indian Institute involved as partner?
''This is a serious conflict of Interest and attempt to sabotage the entire system to benefit few select MNC and their promoters,'' Mr Mahajan said.
''The fortification committees were created by hand-picked people. There is no transparent method because most of the people involved in decision-making process have no experience of fortification and no understanding of its implication on public health,'' he charged.
''This uncontrolled and undesired fortification will only hurt public health, specially infants, lactating mothers, sensitive consumers groups, patients and many other stake holders,'' said pediatrician Dr Arun Gupta of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India.
''The decision, if not revoked, will ruin small and medium food companies and make way for Multi-National Corporations to capture Indian food markets,'' Dr Gupta warned.
He further said, ''Most Indians suffer from under nutrition and adulterated foods. Fortification (of salt, milk, flour, edible oils) is not the answer to solve the problems of nutrition in India. There is no way to check over-dosing of these vitamins. Vitamins are always consumed under prescriptions. Vitamin fortification will bring another set of health disorders among masses.
Pediatrician HPS Sachdev of Sitaram Bhartia Hospital and Dr Arti Kapil of AIIMS pointed out that fortified foods, if given for a long time, were harmful, but there were no checks and balances and regulation in the country. The physiology and absorption capacity of individuals vary, so it cannot be made mandatory.
''Fortification increases costs, even though companies say it is one paise or two, the MSME's may not be able to cope with manufacturing two types of products - fortified and non-fortified,'' they said.
Medical researchers said the move was to benefit the only two MNCs in the world, who manufacture synthetic vitamins and highlighted that nowhere in the world, was fortification mandatory.
Questioning the 'functional benefit' of fortified foods, they said several countries, including Thailand, rejected the idea outright and threw the MNCs out.
Sameer Saxena of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation of India said it was not a good idea to make fortified food 'mandatory' and there should be clear labelling on the product.
Subodh Jindal of All India Food Processors Association said the move will spell the death knell for small manufacturers. With the advent of MNCs, India will become a country of traders.
Dr Ramesh Yadav of Haryana Kisan Ayog said the move is ''to capture the Indian agriculture''.
UNI GP RJ 2111
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