VIJAYAWADA: Blame it on the lack of a proper laboratory in the State, but the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) department in Andhra Pradesh is spending close to Rs 1 crore per month for the testing of food samples.Until a month ago, the FSSAI officials sent the food samples to the State Food laboratory in Hyderabad. However, as the division of staff and properties has completed recently, the officials in AP are left with no option but to depend on private laboratories.
It costs the department an average of Rs 10,000 for the testing of per sample of water, oil, meat, sweets, cereals, confectionery, flavoured water, beverages and the likes.“Every month, FSSAI officials, from across the state, collected close to 1,000 samples and sent them to the State laboratory in Hyderabad. Now that the situation has changed after the conclusion of bifurcation of staff and properties, the State has lost access to its only laboratory as the regional laboratory in Visakhapatnam is not in a position to cater to the basic needs,” said a senior official on the condition of anonymity.
A total of 607 staff of the Institute of Preventive Medicine were divided in 58:42 ratio, as per the AP Reorganisation Act. While AP got 350 sanctioned posts, Telangana got 257. However, out of the 350 sanctioned posts in Andhra, 140 are vacant and six technical staff from Telangana were given posting in AP. Similarly, 17 staff from Andhra Pradesh were transferred to Telangana on the basis of their nativity.
According to the sources in FSSAI, the regional food and science laboratory in Visakhapatnam is lying in neglect despite raising the issue of the need for more testings several times with the authorities concerned.
The recent division of staff and properties resulted in the department to depend on notified National Accreditation Board for Testing Calibration Laboratories (NABL) for analysing the samples collected during raids or inspections.
“Due to poor maintenance and non-following of protocols, the regional laboratory lost the accreditation issued by NABL. In addition, the situation became worse with six technical staff from the Hyderabad laboratory joining here in AP adding more burden on them. They are refusing to check our samples citing lack of enough staff. The situation could have been averted had the higher officials readied the laboratory in advance anticipating the fate of the IPM,” sources added.
Andhra Pradesh stood last in the category of largest States in State Food Safety Index -2022 conducted by FSSAI; it obtained zero in the Food Testing Infrastructure and Surveillance. “As the regional laboratory failed to develop the infrastructure with the funds given by the Centre, NABL suspended its licence,” said the sources.
In-charge director of IPM K Jagadeeswari said the regional laboratory in Visakhapatnam is under renovation and will come into use by next year. “After its completion, we will apply for NABL accreditation once again. Meanwhile, we will keep sending samples to Hyderabad for testing,” she said.