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Review: Average score of States on the ‘State Food Safety Index’ has reduced in the last four years


The State Food Safety Index (SFSI) which assesses the performance of states in the aspect of Food Safety is released every year by the FSSAI. The report was first released for 2018-19. Data of the index scores of the last four years indicates that the average score of states on the ‘State Food Safety Index’ has reduced.

Food safety, food security, and nutrition are closely linked to one another and are vital for the development of a country. Safe and nutritious food must be made accessible to all to ensure a healthy population. Unhygienic and unsafe food may contain harmful chemicals such as Mercury or Lead, microorganisms, parasites, and pathogens like bacteria, fungi and viruses which can result in a plethora of diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancer. Consumption of unsafe food not only results in multiple health issues but could even be fatal. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), annually, an estimated 60 crore people fall ill after consuming contaminated food. This translates to about 1 in 10 people globally. An estimated 4.2 lakh lives are lost (as of 2010) every year because of contaminated food and children below 5 years of age constitute about 30% of this number. Further, 3.3 crore healthy life years (DALYs) are lost. An annual economic loss of USD 110 billion has been estimated through loss of productivity and medical expenses resulting from unsafe food in low- and middle-income countries.  

As a measure to spread awareness and call for action to prevent, detect, and manage risks out of foodborne diseases, the UN announced a World Food Safety Day in 2018. Every year since then, 07 June has been celebrated as World Food Safety Day by WHO, FAO, Member States, and other organizations. 

The annual Report on State Food Safety Index is released by FSSAI to assess the performance of every state

On the same day (07 June) every year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) formally releases the annual report on State Food Safety Index for the previous fiscal year. Though Section 16(2)(g) of the 2006 FSS Act mandates that the FSSAI should conduct a survey of enforcement and administration of the Act, it was only in 2019 that FSSAI started releasing the State Food Safety Index (SFSI) which assesses the performance of states in the aspect of Food Safety so as to encourage positive competition among states for ensuring safe food for all. 

Five significant categories of parameters are considered for calculating the Index. These are 

  1. Human Resources and Institutional Data (HR & ID) This parameter captures the governance aspect of food safety. Availability of Human Resources like the number of Food Safety Officers, Designated Officers, facility of adjudications and appellate tribunals, functioning of State/ District level Steering Committees, the pendency of cases and their monitoring and participation in Central Advisory Committee meetings of the Food Authority is evaluated to see if it is commensurate with the size and population of the state. 
  2. Compliance The yearly increase in registrations and licenses issued, mode of inspection of sample and number of samples lifted for tests, promptness in grievance redressal, availability of help desk and web portals, etc. are captured by this parameter. This is given the highest weightage among the five parameters. 
  3. Food Testing – Infrastructure and Surveillance The availability of testing infrastructure with trained manpower in states for testing food samples is measured. Availability of accredited laboratories, Mobile Food Testing Lab, etc. is also captured.
  4. Training & Capacity BuildingThe parameter is used to see the availability of trained Food Safety Supervisors in food businesses across the States, workshops held, trainings given, etc. 
  5. Consumer Empowerment – Performance of states with respect to empowering initiatives of FSSAI, such as Food Fortification, Eat Right Campus, BHOG (Blissful Hygienic Offering to God), Hygiene Rating of Restaurants, Clean Street Food Hubs, etc. are evaluated here.

Each parameter is given a different weightage, as given below. 

Chart, pie chart  Description automatically generated
Source: FSSAI

Scores are calculated for states based on validated data by an Expert Committee using score factors allotted to each of the 60+ parameters

Detailed scores allotted and scoring factor for each parameter has been given in the handbook. For instance, under the category of HR and ID, if 30 to 80% of the vacancies of designated officers are filled, one mark is given and if more than 80% is filled, two marks are given. More than 60 such parameters are used for the calculation of the index.  

The FSSAI, based on available data, prepares a tentative comprehensive datasheet with details on food safety such as those mentioned earlier. This is then updated/validated by states through an online portal. An Expert Committee looks into the validated data to calculate the scores based on scoring factors. Based on these scores, the states are ranked based on their performance. The report segregates the results of all states/UTs into three categories- large states, small states, and UTs.  

Recently, the fourth edition of the report covering the fiscal year 2021-22 was released. As per the latest report, Tamil Nadu with a score of 82 out of 100 topped the SFSI among large states followed by Gujarat (77.5), Maharashtra (70), Himachal Pradesh (65.5), West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh (58.5). Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh was at the bottom (17th place) with a score of 26. Other poor-performing large states alongside Andhra Pradesh were Bihar (30), Telangana (34.5), Assam (35), and Chhattisgarh and Haryana (38). Further, among small states, Goa (56) topped the list while Arunachal Pradesh (21) was at the bottom. Among Union Territories, Jammu & Kashmir (68.5) topped the list and Delhi (66) was ranked second. 

While Uttarakhand’s score improved by 11, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh’s scores fell 30 points in 4 years

Among large states, Gujarat is the best-performing state between 2018-19 and 2020-21. In 2021-22, Tamil Nadu overtook Gujarat to top the food safety index. In 2021-22, Tamil Nadu’s score rose to 82 from 64 in the preceding year. Other states which have seen an increase in the score are Uttarakhand (44 to 55 in 4 years), Himachal Pradesh (58 to 65.5 in 4 years), & Rajasthan (38 in 2020-21 to 50.5 in 2021-22).  

Kerala, which was among the top 4 in the first three years, has witnessed a drop in score from 76 to 57. A similar decline in score has been witnessed in the case of Madhya Pradesh as well. In these four years, Punjab’s score dropped by 23 points, while that of Haryana and Chhattisgarh dropped by 15 and 13 respectively. Bihar and Andhra Pradesh which have been among the poor performing states have witnessed a drop in score of 30 points. Maharashtra has always had a score of 70 and above, except in 2020-21 when it dropped below 50. 

Except for Sikkim and Tripura, the scores of all the small states have dropped over the years. Goa’s score was 84 in 2018-19 which has now dropped to 56. Arunachal Pradesh has always been the poorest performer among small states, and yet, its score has dropped from 35 to 21 in the four years. Among UTs, despite a decline in score from 71 to 68.5 in the 4 years, J&K has topped the list in 2020-21 and 2021-22. Similarly, the scores of Delhi and Chandigarh have also dropped from more than 70 to less than 60 in the last two years. 

Scores obtained in each parameter by every state have been included in the latest report

The trend in scores reveals that there has not been a significant improvement in the scores of most states. Rather, the ranks of most states have improved because of the decline in scores of other states. It is only in the latest report that the score of each parameter obtained by each state/UT has been included in the report. The score of every state for each category of parameters is available. 

Considering the significant impact of nutrition and health on the development of a nation, and it being a part of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is concerning to note the average score of states on SFSI has declined over the years. 

Featured Image: State Food Safety Index Report


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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