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FSSAI's scientific panel reconstituted

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Date:Jun 14, 2011

But members of the panel now designated as “independent consultants” were a part of the panel as representatives of the industry till February

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has reconstituted its scientific panel and brought independent scientists and experts in its fold. The reconstitution was done after the Supreme Court reprimanded FSSAI, in February this year, for inducting members from the food industry in the panel, defeating it's very purpose of regulating the food industry. Of the eight scientific panels, seven had 18 members from big food businesses.

Section 13(1) of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, states that FSSAI can create a scientific panel only with independent scientific experts. (see: 'Free food body of corporate influence', Down To Earth, March 1- 15, 2011)

The scientific panel now comprises of scientists from various bodies of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research along with a generous mix of independent scientific experts or as the FSSAI's latest list terms--independent consultants.  

Take a closer look at the independent consultants and there is a sense of deja vu. The members of the scientific panel who are now designated as “independent consultants” were a part of the panel as representatives of the industry till February, before the Supreme Court came down heavily on FSSAI. On digging a bit deeper, it was found that some of them have retired in the past two to three months.

These include officials, “now retired” from companies like Hindustan Unilever Research, Marico limited, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare limited and Allanasons Limited. Down to Earth could confirm that D B Anantha Narayana, Vilas Ramrao Shirhatti and  Joseph I Lewis had retired from Hindustan Unilever Research Bengaluru and M/s Marico Ltd., Mumbai, but the status of employment of two others Pradeep K Chaudhary of GSK Consumer Healthcare Ltd and Joginder Singh Berwal of Allanasons limited was not confirmed. There was no response from the companies on this issue. (see box: What the Supreme Court Order Changed) 

"The reconstitution of the panel seems to be an eyewash. It reveals the close nexus between the corporates and the regulatory authority continues," says Ashok Kanchan, adviser-technical, Consumer Voice, a consumer organisation in Delhi.

Though some companies that have been controversial like Pepsico, Coca Cola and Nestle have been shown the door but they are still represented through industry body organisations like Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Darshan Singh Chadha, senior technical advisor of CII continues as a member of the scientific panel for labelling and claims and advertisements. 

The new list also shows a change of designation for a couple of members, and that raises some concerns about their affiliations. Rashmi Kulshrestha, who in the earlier list of members of the scientific panel was Food and Pharma Regulatory Consultant, has now also become an expert in pesticide residues and contaminant. She is on the panel for contaminants in the food chain. Regulatory Wisdom is a food and pharma regulatory consultancy firm based in Delhi.

FSSAI did not respond, till the date of going to press, to the questions about the reconstitution of the scientific panel.

Box: What the Supreme Court Order Changed

Members

Scientific Panel

Status before the February 8 order- the old list of members

After the February 8 order - the reconstituted panel

D B Anantha Narayana

Panel for functional food, nutraceuticals, dietetic products and other similar products

Head, Herbals Research, Hindustan Unilever Research, Bengaluru

Independent consultant, expert in nutraceuticals, ayurvedic products, Bengaluru

Vilas Ramrao Shirhatti

Panel for functional food, nutraceuticals, dietetic products and other similar products

Chief Technology, M/s Marico Ltd., Mumbai

Independent consultant, expert in functional foods and nutraceuticals, fats and oils, Mumbai

Joseph I Lewis

Panel for food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food

Head, R&D, Marico Ltd., Mumbai

Independent consultant, expert in labelling, food additives, oils and fats, Mumbai

Joginder Singh Berwal

Panel for biological hazards

General Manager (Technical), Allanasons Ltd., New Delhi

Independent consultant, expert in meat technology, New Delhi

Pradeep K Choudhary

Panel for labelling claims/ advertisements

Executive Vice President – R&D and Regulatory Affairs in GSK Consumer Healthcare Ltd., Gurgaon

Independent consultant, expert in food additives, food labelling, nutritional foods, Gurgaon

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