In an exclusive interaction with Claus from Food Infotech, Abhishek Biswas, Founder of Sattvik Council of India (SCI) discussed about the role that would be played by his organization in ensuring supply of safe food that is 100% vegetarian for the vegetarian consumers present all over the world, including revealing a little about SCI’s partnership with Bureau Veritas for testing the various kinds of vegetarian food for their authenticity and much more.
Edited Excerpts Below:
i. Could you explain to us about the purpose/objective behind the setting up of your organization, including mentioning a bit about its activities in general?
Until recent years, the efficacy of food control system in the Indian market was found to be destabilized, due to the presence of numerous authorities who were responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of various laws and regulations. The Indian food laws were enacted by different ministries in India possessing varied specifications. In such an environment that had kept everyone bewildered about how the food laws was going to affect the concerned stakeholders, it had become an uphill task for the Statutory bodies to enforce the various laws and regulations affecting the Food Processing Industry, thereby increasing the chances of the health of consumers being endangered in the whole process, due to the inadequacy of food safety and control systems in the country. In 2006, Government of India enacted ‘the Food Safety and Standards Act (2006) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that integrated the existing food laws and introduced a single statute under an apex regulatory authority known as Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). This initiative by the Government of India paved the way for an enhanced food safety and quality system as FSSAI had laid down science-based standards for articles that are to be used in food.
Under the purview of this Act, Sattvik Council of India aims to meet the consumers’ expectations by ensuring supply of safe food that is capable enough to meet the basic quality and safety standards and requirements related to food hygiene, labelling and certification, use of food additives, limits for pesticide residues, etc. This can be accomplished by redefining the food safety infrastructure, obtaining inputs from all the stakeholders’ viz. Public-Private-People partnership – and also by involving in creation of awareness, including sensitization and capacity building, especially in the case of dealing with potentially hazardous food items.
Sattvik Council intends to lay a special focus on education and training of its personnel for establishing a robust food safety and quality system. The certification procedure followed by the Council would reinforce the consumers’ confidence in the food delivery system, owing to the creation of a proper methodology that would be required to be followed by food producers in processing food.
We consider ourselves to be the world’s first and pioneering Vegetarian food & lifestyle Standard Development organization established with an objective to promote the certification for vegetarian food. It ensures the creation of a “VEGETARIAN ENVIRONMENT” for the vegetarian consumers throughout the world. With the requirement for the new SOPs and standards in the food supply chain, Sattvik MARK guarantees the trust of consumers placed in 100% vegetarian/vegan products.
SCI has also associated itself with many organizations for the above mentioned purpose, which is as under:
• NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India)
• Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, Palwal
• Bureau of Indian Standards
• Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Cooperation (IRCTC)
• National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology (NCHMCT)
• 10 + more FSSAI accredited food safety laboratories
• We launched our certification scheme with Bureau Veritas (world leader in testing, inspection and certification) as our global audit partner.
• Tea Board of India
• KVIC (Khadi India)
ii. Would you let us know a bit about the certifications offered by SCI?
Sattvik comes from the Sanskrit word “Sattva” which means pure, clean and strong energy. According to Bhagavad Gita, the food that an individual eats directly influences their thoughts, character, mental well-being and health. All kinds of vegetarian would fall under SATTVIK and be governed by SCI, but vegetarian food that contains any form of impurities or that which could be considered as unsure, doubtful, uncertain, dubitable kind will not be considered to be 100% vegetarian by SATTVIK.
Currently, SCI has brought in almost 40 codes for providing certification to the below mentioned industries which are as under:
Additionally, it expects to add 20 more codes to the Sattvik Codex System (SCS) in the near future.
iii. What are the parameters that are being adopted for testing food to ensure that they are 100% vegetarian? A bit about the same.
SCI has a detailed SOP in place for testing the various kinds of food. More importantly, the product would have to undergo a DNA test mandatorily from a Bureau Veritas (BV) Certified lab.
iv. SCI has partnered with Bureau Veritas for the purpose of offering certifications to different kinds of businesses operating across the food value chain. What can consumers expect to see from such a partnership?
The consumption of vegan and vegetarian foods has gradually increased over the past few years, with more and more people concerned about the protection of environment, animal welfare as well as for their own health reasons. This is an excellent opportunity for us to be able to build the trust among the vegetarian consumers that the vegan or vegetarian products that they purchase and consume are authenticated by us as 100% vegan/vegetarian as the case may be.
Sattvik-Label certification from Bureau Veritas provides the assurance to the consumers that the products consumed by them do not contain any hidden non-vegan or non-vegetarian ingredients.
v. How many times in a year would these businesses be required to undergo an audit to ensure stricter compliance of the SOPs by them?
The certificate that we offer is valid for a period of 1 year and once in every six months, there would be monitoring/surveillance done by our team.
vi. Who is in charge of levying penalties for lack of compliance of the Standard Operating Procedures by Food businesses?
Bureau Veritas is our global audit partner and they would be responsible for checking the non-compliance of SOPs by the food businesses and levying penalties on them for the same.
vii. Can you share a bit about the recent developments happening at SCI?
We will soon be working with IRCTC and will be providing certification for the food units as being ‘Vegetarian Compliant.’ For the first time, IRCTC would be involved in certifying that the food units in a train are 100% vegetarian.
On the other hand, we are also inviting students to enroll in Sattvik Quality Management Course that is currently offered by Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, Palwal. Upon completion of the course, they would be provided with a certificate that can enable them to take up employment as Food Auditors in order to help them earn a livelihood.
viii. Would you like to say a few words for the food manufacturers or any message you’d like to give to the Food Industry in general?
After the COVID-19, there are opportunities for a positive change: Things that might have been seen as optional before are now seen as a necessity. One such example would be the requirement to ensure that a food product that is being sold for consumption to consumers as vegetarian food is 100% vegan/vegetarian as claimed by the seller. The consumers are looking for assurance & trust, which currently Sattvik Council of India aims to provide, since we would like to ensure the creation of “Vegetarian Environment” for those vegetarian consumers present all over the world.