FSSAI working on new food labelling norms

New Delhi: Regulator FSSAI today said it will come up with new regulations for food labelling and packaging as well as strengthen infrastructure to verify claims made by food companies. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is also working on a national directory of recipes of traditional foods of the country.

“We need more modern and updated food labelling regulations. We have been working to review the existing regulations,” FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal said at an event organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) here. In case of packaged cooking oils, he said the regulator has set a deadline of February for companies to comply with a condition to mention the level of transfat and saturated fat on the packet.

Talking about misleading claims made by companies, Agarwal said FSSAI has taken action against six business houses but the incidents of misleading advertisements are “far far more”. “You cannot get away by saying anything. We are looking at regulating and strengthening infrastructure to verify claims,” he said. Stating that FSSAI’s role is to provide not just safe but wholesome food, Agarwal said the regulator has recently come up with standards for high-energy drinks. He also talked about the recent regulatory advisory issued to states to ensure newspapers are not used for packaging of food as they are harmful to health. However, he said that enforcement is a real challenge.

Agarwal further said that the regulator has come up with food fortification and is pushing the industry to adopt this. CSE Director General Sunita Narain said, “We need strong food labelling laws and rules for misleading advertisements by celebrities.” Speaking on the occasion, Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai said, “Celebrities have powerful voice and they can influence consumers’ decision. There is a potential of negative role that celebrities can play.”

However, he said preventive mechanism is much more needed than punitive steps. “To put ball in their (celebrities) court, it is to expect too much,” he said. Desai also said that scientific claims made by the food companies should be backed by “robust evidences”. “We require transparent and clear regulations as well as implementation with clarity. Implementation of regulation is muddy,” he observed.