Health, India, Stories

Data: ‘State Food Safety Index’ Scores Witness a Continuous Decline in Most States


The 5th State Food Safety Index for the year 2022-23 was released recently by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Barring Punjab, Kerala, and Arunachal Pradesh, most states witnessed a decline in their scores, continuing the declining trend over the last few years.

Food Safety is critical since access to adequate, safe, and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. In other words, food safety, nutrition and food security are interlinked. The United Nations first announced World Food Safety Day in 2018. Since then, globally, 07 June is celebrated as World Food Safety Day by WHO, FAO, Member States, and other organizations to spread awareness and call for action to prevent, detect, and manage risks of foodborne diseases. 

The aim of ‘World Food Safety Day’ is to encourage everyone, from the producer to the consumer, to adopt and expect food safety standards along the food supply chain. This is expected to reduce foodborne illness, which is almost entirely preventable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), foodborne diseases affect 1 in 10 people worldwide each year. On average, every day, 1.6 million people fall sick due to unsafe food and 340 children under 5 years of age die due to these preventable foodborne diseases. Of the estimated 4.2 lakh people who lose their lives every year by consuming contaminated food, children under 5 years of age constitute about 40%, with 1,25,000 deaths every year. 

According to WHO, there are also about 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers, that are caused by consuming unsafe food, and some of these can be fatal. Foodborne illnesses usually are infectious or toxic in nature and often not visible to the plain eye. These are caused by organisms like bacteria, viruses, or parasites or by toxic chemical substances that enter the body through food and water.  

‘Food standards save lives’ was the theme for 2023

The theme for World Food Safety Day 2023 was ‘Food standards save lives’ which aimed at recognizing the importance of food standards across the world in keeping consumers safe, and in underpinning an equitable trade in food. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) lays down science-based standards for articles of food and regulates their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Five types of parameters are considered for the Index

The FSSAI releases the State Food Safety Index (SFSI) on World Food Safety Day every year to encourage States/UTs to improve and work towards food safety in their jurisdiction. Five significant categories of parameters are considered for calculating the Index. These are Human Resources and Institutional Data, Compliance, Food Testing – Infrastructure and Surveillance, Training & Capacity Building, and Consumer Empowerment. A detailed explainer by Factly on the different parameters considered, their weightage, and the validation of the data is available here

For better comparison, the States/UTs are classified into the following categories for the assessment:

SFSI Report for 2022-23 was released recently

The 5th State Food Safety Index for the year 2022-23 was released recently by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Kerala, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu are leading among large states while Goa, Manipur, and Sikkim lead among small states, and Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi, and Chandigarh are among union territories. The data for this story has been taken from Dataful.

The SFSI scores have dropped for almost all the states and union territories in 2022-23 compared to the previous year. The only exemptions to this trend are Punjab, Kerala, and Arunachal Pradesh. While Punjab’s score improved by 12.5, Kerala’s score improved by 6 and became the highest scorer in 2022-23. Despite Arunachal Pradesh’s improvement in score by 4.5, the state’s score is only 25.5, half of that of the top scorer in the small states category. 

Bihar’s score has dropped by nearly 40 points in 5 years

Among the large states, the scores have been continuously declining in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, and Chhattisgarh throughout the last five years. Bihar’s score dropped by nearly 40 points from 60 in 2018-19 to 20.5 in 2022-23 to become the worst-performing state. Andhra Pradesh’s score dropped by 33 points, Chhattisgarh by 24 points, Assam by 21 points, Haryana by 20 points, and Uttar Pradesh by 7.5 points. Meanwhile, states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat which were consistently among the top 3 states with an average of 70 points saw a significant drop to 56.5 and 48.5 respectively in 2022-23.

At the same time, states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, and Jharkhand, which saw improvement in scores in the last 3-4 years, also reported a drop in the latest assessment.

SFSI Score is below 20 for Mizoram, Puducherry, and Lakshadweep

Among the small states, Goa’s score continues to be the highest despite a drastic drop from 84 to 51 in the five years. In Tripura, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, the scores have dropped by more than 20 points each. Mizoram’s score is the least among all states with 14.5 points. 

Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the top scorer among union territories for the third consecutive year with a score of 59.5, higher than most large states. On the other hand, Lakshadweep has the lowest score with a score of 4 and Puducherry has a score of 12.

Outstanding achievement of top performing states have been given in the latest report

Scores across types of parameters reveal that the reduction in score has been predominantly in Human Resources and Institutional Data, Compliance, and Food Testing – Infrastructure and Surveillance. Unlike the reports from previous years, the report for 2022-23 also mentions some of the outstanding achievements of the top-performing states. In Chandigarh, Goa, and Tamil Nadu, their performance with respect to Consumer Empowerment through emphasizing on the same through engagement in FSSAI’s Eat Right India (ERI) initiatives as well as awareness programs have been highlighted. 

Food Safety Compliance in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, and Punjab has also been highlighted. In these places, large numbers of food inspections and samples have been lifted to ensure compliance with safety regulations. Further, these states have issued a high number of licenses and registrations. 

Food Testing Infrastructure in Kerala has been exceptional since all State Food Testing Laboratories in the state hold NABL accreditation and are notified under the FSS Act,2006. All sanctioned positions of Food Analysts have been filled, ensuring the availability of qualified professionals for food testing and analysis. All Food Safety on Wheels (FSWs) are operational and actively engaged in conducting testing, training, and awareness programs related to food safety in the state. 

The current number of Food Safety Officers (FSOs) and Designated Officers (DOs) in Sikkim aligns with the recommended ideal strength. Regular District Level Advisory Committee meetings are also conducted in the state. Timely disposal of adjudication cases has also been a positive practice in Sikkim.

In Delhi, a considerable number of Food Safety Training & Certification (FoSTaC) trainings have been conducted through which food handlers are imparted knowledge and skills. A high number of Food Safety supervisors have been trained for the effective implementation of best practices in food safety and hygiene in the UT.

Decline in scores is concerning

The decline in the performance of states with respect to ensuring food safety is a cause for concern. Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food is vital considering the significant impact of nutrition and health on the development of a nation. Moreover, Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for ending hunger and ensuring access to all people, especially the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year round by 2030. Immediate measures must be initiated to improve the scores in the coming year and arrest the declining trend. 


About Author

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s in social science, she is driven by ardent desire to work with this unique combination to create her own path instead of following the herd. Having served a stint as the college union chairperson, she is a strategist who is also passionate about nature conservation, art and loves solving Sudoku.

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