Promoting Secondary Agriculture – Scenario of food quality in the era of globalization

Prashant Bagade

Head – R&D, National Collateral Management Services Limited (NCML), Hyderabad.

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 60% of India’s population and it contributes about INR 3813 billion to the Gross domestic product (GDP). It is expected to contribute INR 5201 billion in 12 months’ time and reach INR 7163 billion by 2020. Despite great strides made in agriculture, problems remain. One such area of concern for Indian Agriculture is – Post-harvest losses which account for INR 92,651 crore per year. Secondary agriculture offers an effective solution to address the problem of post-harvest losses. Food processing industry is considered as “Sunrise sector” of Indian Economy due to immense opportunities it creates in minimising post-harvest losses, creating value-addition to primary agricultural commodities apart from providing entrepreneurial opportunities. A successful food processing industry must ensure that its processes result in safe to consume products. It can be achieved by adhering to the stringent protocols of quality management system including ensuring that the products meet various regulatory requirements set forth by the monitoring agencies. It is in this aspect that the role of food testing laboratories becomes critical in ensuring that the food produced is safe for consumption.

In the recent past, Food safety and quality has assumed global importance. Major reasons for according such importance are – stringent regulatory framework, increased global trade, effective vigilance undertaken by food safety authorities, consumer awareness etc. Food safety can be ensured from the stage of crop growing itself where pesticides are being used indiscriminately. It is also to be ensured along various stages of the food value chain – transportation, storing, processing for value-addition and finally until the point of consumption. Though food safety includes many different parameter groups, pesticide residues are of major concern, apart from microbial contamination, due to their toxic and persistent nature. Research has shown that pesticides have wide-ranging health effects including neurological problems, birth defects, foetal death, respiratory problems, cancer etc in humans. Hence, it is important to ensure that food and food products are free from harmful pesticide residues. Establishment of state-of-the-art food testing laboratories is precursor to ensuring food quality in an era where food and agricultural commodities are traded globally. World-over there have been instances of food safety violations, making it a global concern not just a problem faced by developing nations. Hence, it is of utmost importance that good laboratory practices be followed in all food testing laboratories and food safety management systems be effectively implemented and monitored at food processing facilities for production of safe food.