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April 29 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm


The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of food products consumed by millions of people across the country. 

However, a recent decision by the FSSAI to raise the maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides in herbs and spices has sparked outrage among activists and scientists due to potential health risks and trade implications. 

Issues Surrounding FSSAI’s Decision 

Inconsistencies in FSSAI’s Approach: 

  • The FSSAI’s decision contradicts its previous stance, where it advocated using Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) established by Codex Alimentarius due to the lack of field trial data for most Indian pesticides. 
  • The recent order deviates from this approach, particularly concerning spices and herbs, raising concerns about transparency and data reliability. 

Data Transparency and Reliability: 

  • The MRL of pesticides for food products, including spices and herbs, is determined based on field trial data received through the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC). 
  • However, there are concerns regarding conflicts of interest, as these studies often originate from pesticide companies themselves. 
  • Additionally, the Centre’s Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at the National Level (MPRNL) lacks comprehensive data and does not include testing for spices, further raising doubts about the accuracy of pesticide residue levels. 

Impact on Consumers and Trade: 

  • Countries with stringent pesticide regulations, such as Europe, have rejected Indian products exceeding their MRLs, leading to recalls of Indian food products. 
  • Recent bans on Indian spices in Singapore and Hong Kong due to excessive pesticide residues, particularly ethylene oxide, highlight the potential health risks and trade implications associated with lax pesticide regulations. 

Understanding Pesticide Poisoning and Regulation in India 

Concept of Pesticide Poisoning: 

  • Pesticide poisoning pertains to the harmful consequences of pesticide exposure experienced by humans or animals. 
  • It can lead to various health issues, including cancer, reproductive effects, and neurological disorders, posing significant risks to public health and the environment. 

Pesticide Regulation in India: 

  • Pesticides are regulated under the Insecticides Act, 1968, and the Insecticides Rules, 1971, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. 
  • Various types of pesticides, including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and bio-pesticides, are used in agriculture and other sectors to control pests and diseases. 

Functions and Mandate of FSSAI 

Establishment and Structure: 

  • The FSSAI is a statutory body formed under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, replacing previous food safety laws. 
  • It operates under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and comprises 22 members and a Chairperson, with one-third of the members being women. 

Mandate and Functions: 

  • The FSSAI regulates the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food articles to ensure food safety and establishes standards for the same. 
  • It sets food safety standards, accredits food testing laboratories, and empowers food safety officers to inspect food-related establishments. 
  • Additionally, the FSSAI conducts research on food safety standards, identifies emerging threats, and organizes events and campaigns to promote food safety and healthy eating habits. 

Recent Events and Campaigns by FSSAI 

  • World Food Safety Day: A global initiative to raise awareness about food safety and its importance in public health. 
  • Eat Right India: A national campaign promoting healthy eating habits and safe food practices. 
  • Eat Right Station: A program aimed at ensuring food safety and hygiene at railway stations. 
  • Eat Right Mela: Events organized to educate the public about food safety and nutrition. 
  • State Food Safety Index: An initiative to assess and rank states based on their food safety performance. 
  • RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil): A campaign encouraging the conversion of used cooking oil into biodiesel to promote environmental sustainability. 
  • Food Safety Mitra: A program training volunteers to promote food safety awareness in communities. 
  • 100 Food Streets: A project aimed at improving the safety and hygiene standards of street food vendors across the country. 


While the FSSAI plays a crucial role in regulating food safety standards in India, there is a need for greater transparency, data reliability, and stakeholder consultation in pesticide regulation to address emerging threats and protect consumers’ interests. 

Initiatives and campaigns by the FSSAI play a vital role in promoting food safety awareness and fostering a culture of healthy eating habits, but concerted efforts are required to address the challenges posed by pesticide residues and ensure the safety and integrity of India’s food supply chain. 

Mains Question: 

  1. Discuss the challenges and implications of the recent decision by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to raise the maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides in herbs and spices, highlighting its impact on public health and trade relations. (150 WORDS)


April 29
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
Event Category:
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