According to Business Standard, Companies selling aerated beverages, ice-creams and juices have urged the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to clarify to State government officials that chilled products are safe for consumption, as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic.
This comes at a time when there have been instances of local officials in certain States such as Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal not allowing shops to sell chilled products such as aerated beverages, ice-creams and juices. Industry executives said that in Gujarat too, State government officials are not allowing shops to sell aerated beverages.
A letter written to the FSSAI, by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), stated, “As we all are aware, there is no evidence that Covid-19 pandemic can be spread through food products but in several States such as Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand, products like juices, aerated beverages, ice-creams, etc, are not being allowed to be sold, by the police and local officials. Several of these products use farmers’ produce as raw material and fall in their sale has affected the prices in rural areas.”
The FSSAI has stated that currently there is no evidence that food is “a likely source or route of transmission of Covid-19 virus.” Sources said that none of the ICMR and WHO Situational Reports have, so far, suggested that there is any link between consumption of chilled products and Covid-19 infection.
Industry representatives have sought the FSSAI’s intervention and have urged the food safety authority to direct the Home Secretaries of State governments as well as Food Safety Commissioners to issue clear directions in this regard to district- level officials. “Amidst this uncertainty, a direction from FSSAI will go a long way to reinforce consumers’ confidence and will also help agencies handling the situation on the ground. Under such time, any small misinformation or unscientific action can lead to confusion and image around safety of food sector,” the letter, seen by BusinessLine, stated.
“It would be appropriate to assert that all food categories comply with the Food Safety and Standards Act and Regulations across stages of manufacturing (including raw material/packaging/ingredients etc.), storage and retail. Further, all products bearing FSSAI licence are completely safe and can be consumed without any fear of spreading any disease,” FICCI’s letter to the FSSAI stated.
Essential product companies such as packaged food and staples are allowed to manufacture these products amid the ongoing lockdown but are running their plants at low capacities in line with social distancing and hygiene protocols. “This would really help food companies who are already running at a low capacity to continue operation at ground level in these exceptional times,” the FICCI letter stated.