Food regulator FSSAI on Monday said it has stepped up efforts to improve hygiene and sanitation in the country's meat and fish markets amid reports that coronavirus emerged from a wildlife market in China. In India, hygiene in fish and meat markets is a "complicated issue" and "not good", FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal said even as he exuded confidence that the situation will improve in the coming years due to its efforts.
Expressing concern over poor hygiene in the meat and fish sector, Agarwal said the regulator has been auditing slaughter houses for the last six months.
The audit of government slaughter houses has been completed. The third party sample audit of 5,500 private slaughter houses is underway, of which around 60 have been audited so far, he added.
FSSAI said it will soon start hygiene rating of fish and meat shops in the country.
"There is no impact of coronavirus. However because of this incident, there is awareness about hygiene in the country. We are trying to improve hygiene and sanitation efficiency in meat and fish markets," Agarwal told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.
He said the coronavirus disease is believed to have originated from a wildlife market in Wuhan, China.
The death toll from China's coronavirus epidemic climbed to over 1,700, mostly in the worst-hit Hubei Province. The outbreak originated in the province in December and has spread to several countries, including India.
Earlier, FSSAI chairperson Rita Teaotia announced that the regulator has decided to set up six new branch offices, four new import offices and two new food laboratories as part of its effort to boost in-house capacity.
With this, FSSAI will have four regional offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, 12 branch offices and 6 import offices.
In addition, it will have four national food laboratories at Kolkata, Ghaziabad (Delhi NCR), Mumbai JNPT and Chennai and two food laboratories at Sanauli and Raxaul on Indo-Nepal border.
FSSAI’s new branch offices will be in Bhopal, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad and the new import offices will be at Attari, Kandla, Raxaul and Krishnapatnam.
The FSSAI plans to set up two new food laboratories at Mumbai JNPT and Chennai. Built-up space for the purpose is being taken on long-term lease from Chennai and JNPT Mumbai port authorities.