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Foodborne illness is a major strain on the Indian economy: Inoshi Sharma, Executive Director, FSSAI

Feb 22, 2023

NEW DELHI. 22 February 2023: "Foodborne illness is a major strain on the Indian economy", said Ms Inoshi Sharma, Executive Director, Food Safety and Standards  Authority of India (FSSAI), today at FICCI's Food Systems Symposium in partnership with GAIN, Syngenta Foundation India and Nutrition Connect.

She said, "we get about 150 - 170 million cases and about USD 15 billion of expenditure on foodborne illnesses alone", adding that FSSAI puts a lot of emphasis on food safety. She emphasised a judicious mix of regulatory, supply and demand side initiatives based on the three pillars - "eat safe, eat healthy, eat sustainable". 

Speaking on occasion, Dr Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, GAIN, noted the significant increase in the coverage of nutrition programmes delivered through the health system between 2015 and 2019. However, he pointed to mixed progress on nutritional outcomes. Alluding to the Global Nutrition Report, Haddad underlined significant progress on parameters like "childhood stunting, childhood overweight and exclusive breastfeeding, being on track" but noted other indicators in red.  

Citing a world bank report, Dr Haddad noted that "most of the growth in agriculture output in India and South Asia is due to innovation. India may have got vibrant agriculture and nutrition programmes increasing its coverage, but the reduction in malnutrition rates is not quite significant". 

Dr Haddad concluded that "unhealthy diets are part of the problem", requiring "attention to the middle of the food systems in India". However, he also accentuated "a lot of work going on in India on millets this year", noting millets as "incredibly resilient, incredibly healthy, crops". Further, he called for building awareness and shifting consumer preferences.  

In the welcome address, Mr Siraj Hussain, Adviser, FICCI & Ex-Secretary, Government of India, alluded to NITI Aayog's National multi-dimensional poverty index, which found that about a quarter of India's population was multi-dimensionally poor in 2015-16. "Due to poverty, there is a lot of malnutrition", he said. He spoke on the government's food distribution programme, however, noted that "our public distribution system is cereal centric". As a result, the country's poor population does not receive much support for proteins, fruits, vegetables, etc.

Mr Tarun Vij, Country Director, GAIN India, noted that the symposium's theme is to build sustainable and equitable food systems via innovations, multi-sectoral approaches and policy change. He said, "food Systems face significant challenges from climate change, food insecurity, and food waste, requiring urgent attention for greater resilience and equity". He noted that the diverse stakeholders must work together to create food systems that benefit everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

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