Govt eyes trackers in food products for instant recalls

Written by Soma Das | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 24 2012, 09:44am hrs
The food business operators in the country may be asked by the government to put in place a mobile-based technology in their products, which enables a company to track and trace its goods throughout the supply chain.

The latest move is part of the larger product-recall system that the food regulator of the country is in the process of formulating to ensure the safety of food items. This comes shortly after the government made it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies to equip their products meant for exports with track-and-trace technology and has sent clear signals that a similar directive may be imposed for pharma products in the domestic market as well.

This, as and when implemented, would have to be followed by most FMCG companies such as HUL, Nestle India, Britannia Industries, PepsiCo India, Coca-Cola India and others, which market food products in the country and food retailers which market private labels such as Future Value Retail along with pharma companies that market food supplements.

In regulated markets such as the US and other developed countries, such product recall norms are fairly well established. In India, however, the occasions of food and drug recalls are rarer and often occur at the initiative of the company alone. This picture is set to change with the food regulator formulating the mechanism and spelling out the regulatory framework for such recalls.

The regulator is already in the midst of conducting pilot food recalls, in partnership with the industry to work out a standardised feasible system for recall. The food regulator also has plans to extend the track-and-trace net to the unorganised sector, and even the mandis by offering them incentives to adopt such a system.

Experts, however, maintain that this ambitious coverage goals would present a daunting challenge for the regulator, the implementation of which may take several years.

Unlike most regulated markets where product recalls are practised regularly, the supply chains here are not fully automated. The ease of recalling a product is also hindered by the fact that various links in the supply chain are not well oiled and each smooth recall process is finally a result of coordinated effort between various such stakeholders, an executive heading the supply chain of a FMCG company said. The food regulator is looking to rope in organisations like Food Corporation of India (FCI), State Trading Corporation (STC) to make the recall system more efficient.