INDIA, New Dehli. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has denied that the recent novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had any impact on the local meat and fish industry, but said that it intended to ‘leverage’ the crisis to raise hygiene standards nationwide.
The vast majority of evidence so far has pointed to COVID-19 originating from a wet market in Wuhan, China known for selling various forms of meat, and FSSAI wants to utilise the fact that many public consumers are aware of this to clean up the acts of local meat and fish businesses.
"The hygiene of our meat and fish shops and slaughterhouses is very critical. Slaughtering meat products in India requires a lot of hygiene upgradation," FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal said at a press conference.
Agarwal went on to add that FSSAI intended to leverage on the awareness in the country surrounding the Coronavirus to improve local meat and fish shop/market hygiene, but categorically denied that COVID-19 has had any impact on the local meat industry.
India claims that it has only detected three cases of COVID-19 in the country, all of which have supposedly already recovered. All three were from the state of Kerala, and were students that had been studying in Wuhan and were evacuated. Despite the low number of cases and denial of any negative impacts, this move by FSSAI is an understandably cautious one, as India may have a real problem on its hands if the situation escalates further.
FSSAI also announced that it would be setting up a total of 12 new facilities (six new branch offices, four import offices and two food laboratories) to ensure it reached a'pan-Indian presence, strengthen its inspection and enforcement activities and have better control of imported food.
"While all issues of food safety and nutrition in the country have not been addressed, there is now a correct diagnosis and a proper treatment regimen available to address all the safety issues in a comprehensive manner," Agarwal said in a formal statement. "Building a public institution like the food safety authority is not a sprint it is like a marathon. At times we may appear slower than the others, but eventually we have to be ahead,” he added.