INDIA – In a bid to bolster food safety measures across Assam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has virtually inaugurated the state-of-the-art microbiology laboratory and 17 Food Safety on Wheels (FSWs) units at the State Public Health Laboratory in Guwahati.

This endeavor, undertaken under the Commissionerate of Food Safety, Department of Health & Family Welfare, marks a pivotal step towards ensuring the well-being of citizens and promoting safe consumption practices.

The procurement of 17 FSWs, facilitated by funds from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), signifies a substantial investment of Rs. 8.46 crore (U.S$1.02 M).

These mobile units are equipped to conduct comprehensive analyses of various food items, ranging from milk and milk products to water, fruits, beverages, and edible oils.

With their mobility and advanced testing capabilities, the FSWs are poised to extend surveillance, awareness, and training initiatives on food safety throughout the state, even reaching remote areas.

The microbiology laboratory, established for Rs. 13.11 crore (U.S$1.5 M), emerges as a cornerstone in safeguarding food safety.

Equipped with cutting-edge technology, the lab is dedicated to detecting a myriad of microorganisms, including pathogens, in food products. By facilitating timely and precise testing, it aims to mitigate the risks associated with foodborne illnesses and ensure the integrity of the food supply chain.

Through expert-led training sessions and public awareness campaigns, these mobile units endeavor to instill best practices and foster a culture of food safety consciousness. By disseminating information to even the remotest corners of Assam, the government strives to bridge the gap between consumers and regulatory authorities.

Union Territory not left behind

Recently, six FSWs were deployed across the Union Territory, enhancing the region’s food safety infrastructure. Two of these advanced mobile units have been designated to serve the urban centers of Srinagar and Jammu, ensuring the heart of the territory’s populace benefits from their services. T

The remaining four vans are tasked with extending their reach to the districts of Shopian, Pulwama, Ganderbal, and Bandipora in the Kashmir region, as well as Kathua, Samba, Reasi, and Udhampur districts in the Jammu division, covering a broad and diverse area.

These FSWs come equipped with cutting-edge features tailored for comprehensive food safety assessments. Among these are sophisticated microbiological settings that allow for detailed analysis, GPS tracking systems for efficient deployment and monitoring, and audio-visual installations designed to facilitate interactive educational sessions.

The vans possess the capability to conduct precise on-site tests at a micro level, bringing laboratory-grade accuracy to the field.

Beyond testing, the initiative mandates these vans to conduct 25 training programmes and 15 awareness camps. These sessions are planned to educate both consumers and food business operators about the paramount importance of food safety and hygiene practices.

Through these interactive and informative sessions, the initiative aims to foster a culture of food safety that resonates across all levels of the food supply chain, from farm to fork.

This holistic approach not only enhances the overall food safety standards in the region but also empowers individuals with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed decisions about their food consumption and handling practices.

Analysts and assistants will be on board to facilitate the testing process and ensure the efficiency of operations. The FSWs can conduct up to 250 sample tests per month. Worth mentioning, this food safety on wheels is a kind of lab in which all kinds of tests will be done.

“Food Safety on Wheels” is an initiative launched by the FSSAI last year to provide mobile units for food testing to reach out to consumers through as many touch points as possible.

To date, the regulator has provided 155 mobile units have been provided to 33 States. At present, there are a total of 727 districts and FSSAI intends to provide one FSW per district in the next 2-3 years and around 550 FSWs in the next 2-3 years.

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