The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s apex food regulator, will release the drafts on three separate regulations on packaging, labelling and advertisement, and claims in a few months from now. Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive officer, FSSAI says, “FSSAI has completed the review of the standards and is currently revising the existing Food Safety Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011. It has been decided that these standards will be divided into three sections, namely regulations for packaging, labelling and advertisement, and claims.”
He adds, “All the three areas are significant. Earlier, there was a single inclusive regulation for all the three sections. Also, we have been using the standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for the packaging.”
The regulator and the industry believe that a lot needs to be discussed and done in this regard. With several industry-regulator meets and talks held with the stakeholders representing various sectors like packaging, food and other industries, the inputs will be compiled and forwarded to the stakeholders for a discussion.
Agarwal says, “Virtually there were no regulations for claims and advertisement. Since all three aspects are vital, there will be separate regulations now. On the labelling front, the work has been completed. Meanwhile, packaging regulations are weak and consultations are underway.”
According to Joseph Lewis, advisor to FSSAI, “The FSSAI will finalize the draft and put it up for consultation considering and including recommendations from the expert group and stakeholders.”
Traffic light labelling suggested by many for norms on labelling
Lewis adds, “The laws under FSS Act are evolving and the regulator is working on the same to make it easier to understand, thereby making it easy for compliance. The law structure is quite complex and difficult to understand. Recently, the FSSAI review panel came up with some standards which were overlapping and single aspects covered under multiple laws. Interlinking horizontal laws with vertical ones is the need of the hour and FSSAI is doing the same.”
The scientific panel at the FSSAI believes that the laws which were derived from some other law books like legal metrology department and environment protection act or Animal Welfare Board order must be included in the FSS Act. Also, the new law on packaging will be clean and a structure which will have all regulations from all the lawbooks. This is the reason behind dividing the three categories into different sections. These packaging regulations will include most of the packaging materials that come in contact with food, such as aluminium foil, laminates, aluminium sheets used for cans, plastics, glass, paper, tin, etc. Also, the principal material, printing and pigments and colorants that may come in contact with foodstuff directly or indirectly will be included.
Considering other perspectives of suggestions from the expert groups in the food industry, many had upheld to include ‘Traffic signal’ labelling on the food package, which is rampant in the European nations. This labelling style enables the buyer to decide and select healthier options upon viewing the color code. These color codes will be based on evaluating the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of the food product. In 2014, the prospects for inclusion of the same were studied but due to unorganized market up to 70%, the proposal stands stalled.
Lewis informs, “The regulations will feature a suggestive list of packaging materials based around different categories.” The new regulations will take a while to finally roll out, as they will be subject to scrutiny and consultations by scientific panels, the expert group and the stakeholders, including the industry and legal lobby.