A committee constituted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has opined that as of now, there is no conclusive evidence for foodborne transmission of COVID-19, Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.
It was also informed that food imported into India from COVID-19 affected countries is safe for human consumption Consequent upon the COVID-19 outbreak in China and other countries and concerns raised regarding safety of food items imported from these countries, the FSSAI had constituted a committee of experts to examine the possibility of presence of COVID-19 in food imported from these countries and address the concerns in this regard.
"The committee, in its report, opined that as of now, there is no conclusive evidence for foodborne transmission of coronavirus and concluded that food imported into India from coronavirus-affected countries is safe for human consumption," Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in a written reply.
The committee agreed with the advisories of global organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the predominant routes of transmission of COVID-19 appear to be human-to-human. In light of findings of the expert committee, a press release was issued by the FSSAI on March 5 to address the concerns of consumers and general public in this regard.
Commissioners of Food Safety of all states and union territories were also advised vide letter dated March 6 to take appropriate steps to disseminate correct information to consumers and general public to counter any false propaganda. During the lockdown period, import clearance of food items and food testing laboratories (National Food labs at NCR and Kolkata and FSSAI accredited private labs) were classified as essential services and regular import clearance procedure was followed.
To guide the public and Food Business Operators (FBOs) about safe food practices and facilitate the FBOs to ensure that the food supply chain is not affected, a number of steps have been taken by the FSSAI as part of which a detailed guidance note 'Food Hygiene and Safety Guidelines for Food Businesses during Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic' has been released.
An e-handbook on 'Eat Right during COVID-19' for citizens highlighting safe food practices to be followed and tips on health and nutrition has been released. The FSSAI is using its social media extensively to disseminate information amid COVID-19, including public awareness material on eating right during coronavirus. To avoid delay in issuance of license where licensing authority decided to conduct inspection prior to issue of license, licensing authorities were asked to conduct it by way of inspection. This has been extended up to December 31 this year.
The FBOs, other than manufacturers, were allowed to temporarily operate their businesses on the basis of application for license/registration submitted online. This facility has been extended up to December 31 this year. The FBOs, whose FSSAI license/registration expired with effect from August 1, 2019, have been given grace period and allowed to continue their food businesses with their existing license/registration number without any late fee.