Sanjay Dave, chairman, Codex Alimentarius Commission, and advisor, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), said that self-regulation was the need of the hour for the food industry, and warned that it wouldn’t be able to do so because it didn’t want to be regulated, but was keener to make money.
He was speaking at the sixth National Food Research and Development (R&D) seminar, organised in Mumbai on Wednesday by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), in association with FSSAI and the ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI).
One of the topics discussed at the meet, which was attended by representatives of the industry, the government, the regulators and consumer bodies, was food safety and the need for the industry, the government and the regulators to work in tandem for the benefit of the consumers, who were, after all, at the receiving end.
“The new challenges that are cropping up are unknown to the industry. So, they remain unaddressed, and this, in turn, leads to issues that concern the health of the consumers,” Dave stated, urging not only FSSAI, but also other sectors of the food business, including exporters, to work closely with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
He added, “Implementing good agriculture practices is also very important. There are also continuous deliberations by the Codex Alimentarius Commission on the likely effects of climate change in India. Codex always thinks about these issues and takes them into consideration.”
“We need to know of consumer choices. The ministries of food processing industries; agriculture; food, consumer affairs and public distribution system, commerce and health, and FSSAI have to work in synergy to encourage scientists to come up with many more innovations and also regulations,” Dave stated.
“Harmonisation is going to complete in the middle of October, and it would be going to the scientific committee for approval. We are following science and implementing science-based standards for the safety of food,” he added.
“A number of other issues related to the food safety were discussed by the experts, representative of the government, FSSAI representatives and consumer forum representatives,” Dave said.
There were discussion on various topics such as safe food and Better Business: Two Sides of a Coin.
The panellists included Dr J J Lewis, member of scientific panel for labelling and claims/advertisements (who spoke about ‘Dimension of Food Safety: Evolving with Science’); Sanjay Sharma, chief executive officer, MTR Foods (who spoke on ‘Diversity in Business: Traversing Food Safety’), and Prakash Sanghavi of the Food Ingredient Manufacturers and Suppliers Association of India (who spoke about ‘Converging Choice and Safety through Horizontal Standards’). The topic was chaired by Anuradha Prasad, joint secretary, MoFPI.
The topic on ‘Food Safety Net: Where does India stand’ was chaired by Dave. The panellists included Dr Roger Bektash, director, scientific affairs, Australia and Asia, Mars (who spoke about ‘Building Blocks of Response Mechanism to Global Interactions); Dr Sitaram Dixit, chairman, Consumer Guidance Society of India (who spoke about the lessons learned from food safety outbreaks), and Dr Sangeeta Sharma, senior surgeon, poultry research and farm, Government of Madhya Pradesh (who spoke about the National Food Safety Grid).
The last topic of the event was Food Safety: Linking Consumer, Processes and Markets. It was chaired by Dr Bektash, and the panellists included Tejas Bhatt, director, Global Traceability Centre, Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), United States (who spoke about the Challenge to Track my Food: Global Supply Chain); Ramakrishnan Narasimhan, registrar’s director, UL, USA (who spoke about ‘Mending Single Road for Different Countries: Certification Standards), and Bejon Misra from Consumer Voice (who spoke about ‘Challenges in Managing Food Recall: An Indian Scenario’).
விழுப்புரம்: ஜவ்வரிசி உற்பத்தியில் வேதி பொருட்கள் கலப்படத்தை தடை செய்தல் சம்பந்தமான ஆய்வுக் கூட்டம் விழுப்புரத்தில் நடந்தது. ஜவ்வரிசி உற்பத்தியில் வேதி பொருள் (கெமிக்கல்) கலப்படத்தை தடை செய்தல் மற்றும் தரமான ஜவ்வரிசி தயாரித்தல் குறித்து தொழிற்சாலை உரிமையாளர்களுடன் ஆய்வுக் கூட்டம், விழுப்புரம் கலெக்டர் அலுவலகத்தில் நடந்தது. கலெக்டர் சம்பத் தலைமை தாங்கினார். ஜவ்வரிசி தொழிற்சாலை கூட்டுறவு சங்க மேலாண் இயக்குநர் சாந்தா முன்னிலை வகித்து பேசியதாவது : விழுப்புரம் மாவட்டத்தில் 6 ஜவ்வரிசி தொழிற்சாலைகள் சின்னசேலம் பகுதியில் அமைந்துள்ளது. இங்கு தயாரிக்கப்படும் ஜவ்வரிசி தரமானதாக உற்பத்தி செய்ய வேண்டும். இவர்கள் உரிமம் பெறாமல் செயல்பட கூடாது. இந்த தொழிற்சாலைகள் மரவள்ளி கிழங்கு முதலில் தோல் உரித்தும், அடுத்து சுத்தமான தண்ணீரில் சுத்தம் செய்தும், மாவை அரைத்து தயார் செய்ய வேண்டும். சில தொழிற்சாலைகள் வேதி பொருட்கள் பயன்படுத்தி சுத்தம் செய்கின்றனர். இதனால் மனிதர்களுக்கு நோய் ஏற்படுகிறது. ஜவ்வரிசி தயாரிக்க குடிநீரை மட்டுமே பயன்படுத்த வேண்டும். ஈர மாவுகளை வாங்கி வியாபாரிகள் விற்பனை செய்ய கூடாது. இந்த விதிமுறைகள் மீறி ஜவ்வரிசி தயார் செய்யும் தொழிற்சாலைகள் கண்டறியப்பட்டால், உணவு பாதுகாப்பு சட்டத்தின் கீழ் நடவடிக்கை எடுக்கப்படும். கெமிக்கல் பொருள் கலந்து ஜவ்வரிசி தயார் செய்வது ஆய்வில் கண்டறியப்பட்டால் தொழிற்சாலை உரிமையாளருக்கு 7 ஆண்டுகளுக்கு மேல் சிறை தண்டனை கிடைக்கும். இவ்வாறு மேலாண் இயக்குநர் சாந்தா தெரிவித்தார். இதில், கள்ளக்குறிச்சி வருவாய் கோட்டாட்சியர் குணசேகர், மாவட்ட தொழிற்மைய மேலாளர் மகாலிங்கம், உணவு பாதுகாப்பு அலுவலர் டாக்டர் ஆறுமுகம், வழங்கல் அலுவலர் சண்முகம் உட்பட பலர் கலந்து கொண்டனர்.
The story of 25,000 crores worth of food lying unused across the ports of India is one waiting to be told. We got in touch with people from the food industry to understand the current scenario regarding packaging and labeling of imported food products.
Over 200 tonnes of chocolates, olives, alcoholic beverages, cured meat, cheese and other food products are catching dust in warehouses across the country as The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has banned imported goods from coming through due to incorrect labeling. Products with a short shelf life are being pulled back and others are just sticking it out.
There’s plenty of ambiguity, lack of dialogue and absence of a well-articulated framework when it comes to rules and regulations regarding the food industry. FSSAI is responsible for laying down science-based standards for manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale and import of all food products. This regulatory body is the one point contact for all food manufacturers. We also tried to get in touch with the FSSAI over a number of days but did not receive a response.
At first glance, everything appears to be in line. What could go wrong with a regulatory body trying to ensure that food imports meet Indian safety standards? For starters, the guidelines or regulations that the FSSAI follow are not up to date. Mr. Amit Lohani, National Convenor for Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI) says, "The problem isn’t that there are rules, but that these rules are old and irrelevant. The document that’s being referred to is as old as 1954 and 1956. It’s simply been rehashed to look new."
Makers of Lindt, the popular Swiss chocolate recently decided to pull out of the Indian market after a series of bruising losses. They saw six years of roaring success in the Indian market till they were struck by the FSSAI who asked them to comply with the labeling guidelines under the ‘Food Safety and Standards Act, 2011′. In August 2013, three of their containers worth Rs.750 – 1000 crore (one third of which was chocolates) were held back. The FSSAI asked them to list down ingredients in descending order of composition by weight or volume. The company complied with the request and sent a fresh batch in January 2014 which also didn’t make it past the ports because of a modified regulation which stated that chocolates with vegetable oil or fat could not be imported.
The food industry is already heavily regulated – and if an importer does not meet the labeling and packaging requirements, it’s choked right at the point of entry. Food importers are growing tired of the exhaustive list of rules and regulations. This has set off an avalanche of lawsuits giving a bad name to the FSSAI, especially amongst those in the food industry.
In April 2014, a Starbucks shipment with two containers of flavoured-syrup was held back at the Mumbai port as the FSSAI felt that the product did not meet their basic requirements. A Starbucks spokesperson was quoted saying that the product in question met the requirements of over 64 countries and has been in supply for almost 40 years. Starbucks appealed to the Mumbai High Court which was quick in handing down its decision. The court asked FSSAI to release the shipment and also pointed out that they acted in an ‘arbitrary and capricious manner.’ A Starbucks’ spokesperson refused to comment, on account of the matter being currently sub judice.
Mr. Amit Lohani from FIFI adds, "The dynamics and workings of the food industry have changed drastically. There are thousands of product categories and product sub-categories, each with its own unique manufacturing method. The FSSAI regulations aren’t equipped to handle these which is what makes them regressive, not progressive."
An importer of black olives who wishes to remain anonymous has been in business for over 20 years and tells us how his shipment of pasteurized olives was held back over the issue of salt content. "The minimum salt content in pasteurized olives needs to be between 1 to 1.5 % but the products were tested against treated olives which are supposed to have a salt content of almost 5 %. The FSSAI was then informed that the salt content in pasteurized olives applies to international standards and is being tested against the wrong product. The FSSAI acknowledged this fact and released the consignment in question. But this problem can be repeated in the future with other importers because the rules are still the same. India is too small a market for big importers and this kind of hogwash approach will definitely drive away the big guns."
Another interesting case is that of Canola oil. In April, large shipments of canola oil were held back for incorrect labeling. The labeling rules say that products need to use their ‘scientific name’ and not their ‘trade name.’ Canola oil happens to be the trade name and the scientific name is ‘Rapeseed Oil’. Mr. Lohani said "A rule as vague as this suddenly wipes away years of marketing efforts that positioned the product as canola oil amongst consumers."
While food importers seem to be going through a world of trouble, so are restaurant owners. Chef Manu Chandra, Executive Chef and Partner at Monkey Bar said "Cured meats, ham, cheese and other products have disappeared from the market. We’re being forced to look at alternatives which might mean we’ll have to compromise on the taste, flavour and quality we’ve been offering so far. For many, this is a deal breaker."
It is understandable that with increased awareness consumers want to know more about what’s in their food. Nobody wants to stand in way of such kind of transparency. But current rules and regulations seem to be crippling the food industry instead of helping them deliver safe products.
NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 30:
Non-compliance with labelling norms is holding up an estimated ₹20,000 crore worth of food products at ports and airports. And importers claim to be losing out on revenues this festive season. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), however, argues that it is just following norms that have been made more stringent, such as those in the West, demanding better information for the benefit of consumers.
“We aren’t doing anything that’s not done anywhere else. The law isn’t being implemented unilaterally, it has been vetted by the World Trade Organisation. Exporters comply when other countries ask them to conform to labels; when we ask, it’s an issue. When exported Indian goods fall short on the smallest of clauses, they are dismissed from ports or destroyed,” K Chandramouli, Chairperson, FSSAI, toldBusinessLine.
The numbers provided by the standards body indicate that 304 non-conformance certificates (NCCs) were handed out from a total of 28,521 consignments (a 1.06 per cent rejection rate) from the start of this financial year in April and August 22. Last year, 1,105 NCCs were given out for 64,818 consignments — a 2 per cent rejection rate. The value of uncleared consignments was ₹44.04 crore (April-August 22, 2014). An official said that while a large number of the NCC consignments fell short on following labelling norms, others were rejected because of substandard quality.
Officials at the Forum of Food Indian Importers (FFII) have a different take. They say the US and the European Union are also strict about importing food products but this is centred on quality. They allege that the FSSAI is rejecting products only on the basis of incorrect labelling, without even testing the contents.
“There are 17 labelling norms, of which 10-12 are common across the globe. Some norms, such as brown and green dots to distinguish between vegetarian and non-vegetarian products, are India-specific, and products are being rejected based on labelling inaccuracies,” said an FFII member. The ambiguity of some of these regulations, he said, was hurting everyone — “food importers, five-star hotels and food manufacturers.”
Food industry sources said some key international companies that exported products had pulled out of India as they felt it was still a small market that didn’t justify the losses.
Chandramouli refuted industry claims, stating that these grievances stemmed from a small number of players, particularly those importing chocolates, alcohol (whisky) and Canola (edible oil). The meagre number of rejections debunks the basis of such protests, he added.
“India has received 2.25 lakh consignments after the Food Safety & Standards Act (Packaging & Labelling) became operational on August 5, 2011. The rejections are around 2,000; but importers — particularly of chocolates, alcohol and Canola — are making it sound like it is a huge volume,” he said, adding that strict implementation of the Act had disrupted backdoor channels that compromised consumer safety.
He said quality checks are conducted after a product passes the labelling check. On testing samples of imported chocolates, FSSAI found vegetable oil, a banned substance here, to be present, sometimes at amounts of 37 per cent. “For whisky, we have only asked for the contents contained – alcohol, water, caramel and any colouring additives. We have asked Canola manufacturers to just mention that it is rapeseed oil with low erucic acid content on the package. Rapeseed oil is similar to mustard oil,” Chandramouli explained.
Canola sells for ₹400/litre while mustard oil is available at ₹100/litre. With regard to alcohol, no ingredient list is required for single-ingredient products.
Food importers say the FSSAI standards are hazy for several product categories that meet international standards but are rejected at Indian ports. Others point out that 20-30 per cent of small importers have shut shop and moved to other businesses after suffering huge losses. The festive season may be particularly impacted by the stalled imports, they say.
“The festive season is when demand for such food products, not available in India, reaches its peak. It’s not just finished products, but key ingredients needed by Indian food manufacturers for which imports are planned nearly six months in advance and foreign exchange already paid. These products are also lying at the ports,” said Firoz H Naqvi, Secretary, Food Ingredients Manufacturers & Suppliers of India Association said.
FSSAI, an autonomous body under the Health Ministry, is now in the process of setting up a committee with representatives from the industry, consumer groups and food scientists, among others, to look into product approval regulations. The panel is likely to hold its first meeting in early October.
“Times are changing and importing just about anything cannot go on. Standards will evolve in response to the rise in product inflows and new technologies. Labelling norms are the first step to achieving better standards,” said Chandramouli.
In Mumbai alone, at least five companies have gone to court after the food safety authority detained their consignments
According to the Food and Safety Standards Act, all imported food, except single-ingredient products, must display a list of ingredients and mention the manufacturing and expiry dates on the label.
Mumbai: India’s food safety authority and companies importing packaged food are increasingly at loggerheads over the country’s labelling and packaging rules, with several disputes ending up in courts.
On 16 September, the Bombay high court directed the release of detained canola oil consignments imported by Dalmia Continental Ltd. The court called the detention by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) “arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.” Article 14 guarantees equality before law.
In Mumbai alone, at least five companies including Barry Callebaut India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian arm of Swiss chocolate firm Neulife Nutrition Systems Pvt. Ltd; Tata Starbucks Ltd and Vital Nutraceuticals Pvt. Ltd have gone to court after the food safety authority detained their consignments. The Vital Neutraceuticals and Barry Callebaut cases are now pending in the Supreme Court.
Barry Callebaut declined to comment. Emails to Neulife Nutrition and Vital Nutraceuticals did not elicit any response. Tata Starbucks said in email that it did not want to comment on the issue as the case is sub judice.
According to the Food and Safety Standards Act, all imported food, except single-ingredient products, must display a list of ingredients and mention the manufacturing and expiry dates on the label.
In August, Dalmia Continental approached the high court after the authority detained at least three consignments of canola oil imported from Canada, totalling about 80 tonnes, citing non-compliance with rules. The authority alleged that the oil contained “genetically altered ingredients”, before rejecting it citing consumer interest. The high court, however, ruled that the authority has “acted contrary to the provisions” of the food safety and standards norms.
“The FSSAI is yet to release our consignment as it is planning to appeal against the Bombay high court order in the apex court,” a spokesperson for Dalmia Continental said.
FSSAI data shows that during January-June, out of 1,777 samples tested at its laboratories, nearly one-fifth failed to meet standard safety and quality parameters.
FSSAI’s measures have caused processed food importers losses worth Rs.26,000 crore by seizing or stopping imported goods, according to Amit Lohani, convenor of the Forum of Indian Food Importers, a lobby group.
He says this will only get worse. “The losses will double next year if the laws don’t change,” Lohani said.
FSSAI works under the health and family welfare ministry, while some of the companies impacted by the law are under processed foods makers whose interests are represented by the ministry of food processing industries.
Lobbyists say that bifurcating FSSAI and bringing it under the food processing ministry will help them resolve their issues.
“The growth of the processed foods industry is not the concern of the ministry of health and family welfare and hence our concerns are not getting addressed. The FSSAI Act should be bifurcated to be addressed by the relevant ministries,” said Firoz Naqvi, secretary, Food Ingredients Manufacturers and Suppliers of India Association, a lobby of 50 importers who supply to institutions.
Importers complain that there aren’t enough product standards under the law. “Currently, there are only 377 standards for imported food items, whereas the government is supposed to have updated the list by August to be a few thousands. But that has not happened,” said Lohani.
The government formed a committee of experts in July to study the issues in product approval and decide on the course of action.
However, a lawyer said that till rules are amended, companies must follow them.
“If it is a statutory requirement, companies have to follow it. The world over, companies have to meet labelling and packaging requirements of the country that they do business in,” said Anuradha Salhotra, partner at Delhi-based law firm Lall Lahiri and Salhotra. “If a company thinks India is going to be a major market, then they should look at the labelling requirement of the country at the time of manufacturing and package accordingly.”
The Swiss Government is looking to soon resolve the issues arising out of new labelling guidelines in India.
Issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the nodal agency under the Health Ministry, the new rules mention that the labels on shipped imported packaged food items must list the ingredients used and the nutritional value in English, along with the producer’s name, address and the country of origin in the prescribed format.
As per the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 that came into force in 2011, pasting of stickers on products is also not allowed.
According to Linus Von Castelmur, Ambassador of Switzerland in India, the new labelling norms will impact imports from Switzerland, including chocolates.
“We are in talks and are working on that (new labelling norms)… We hope that we can find a solution soon,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Dr DC Saikia explained that deficiency of iodine in health leads to goiter, stillbirth and miscarriage, neonatal and juvenile thyroid deficiency, dwarfism, brain damage, intellectual impairment, deaf mutisim, spastic weakness, mental retardation, etc., which are permanent and irreversible but these can be prevented by consuming iodised salt daily, which is the most effective and inexpensive mode to prevent iodine deficiency disorder.
‘To control IDD, the Government of India launched the National Iodine Deficiency Disorder control programme in 1962 and the Health and Family Welfare department is the nodal agency for policy making in this regard. The Salt Commissioner’s Office under the Ministry of Industry is responsible for licensing, production and distribution of iodised salt to States,’ Dr Saikia added. He said that the health authority can notify banning the entry and sale of non-iodised salt under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. The District Health authority should go for quality testing at the spot to ensure the quality of iodised salt at the consumption level where iodization level could be fixed at a minimum of 15 parts per million (ppm) at the consumer level and 30 ppm at the production level. Dr DC Saikia in his speech also emphasised that salt can be iodised with potassium iodide salt or potassium iodate.
However, potassium iodate is better, as it is very stable and it’s melting point is 530’C and this salt is called iodated salt. ‘Mainstreaming of IDD control in policy making, devising State specific action plans to control IDD, strict implementation of Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006, addressing inequities in iodised salt coverage (rural-urban, socio-economic), providing iodised salt in Public Distribution System, strengthening monitoring and evaluation of IDD programme and ensuring sustainability of IDD control activities are essential to achieve sustainable elimination of IDD in India.
IDD control programme in India is one of the success stories of public health in the country. The current 91 per cent household level coverage of iodised salt in India, of which 71 per cent is adequately iodised salt, is a big achievement,’ he added. Dr Pranati Saikia spoke about the importance of iodised salt and Prasanta Das, Food Safety Officer demonstrated the quality testing of iodised salt at the meeting grams,’ he said.
Top retail chains in the country, some of which have pioneered many of the concepts in Indian retail, are found to be flouting labelling norms by continuing to sell processed foods and beverages way beyond their expiry by sticking new labels denoting extended use by, last consumption or expiry dates.
Though FSSAI’s (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011, 1.2.1 (10) clearly defines “Use by date” or “Recommended last consumption date” or “Expiry date” and adds, “After which the food probably will not have the quality and safety attributes normally expected by the consumers and the food shall not be sold,” and 2.2.1 (4) states, “Label in pre-packaged foods shall be applied in such a manner that they will not become separated from the container,” many of these top retail chains are resorting to this practice.
In this regard, Anupam Gupta, an activist from Masjid Bunder in Mumbai, who keeps filing RTIs (Right to Information) against big retailers and the malpractices they are resorting to, reveals, “I will not inform you about the name of the retailers who are involved in this expiry date scams.
They all are big retailers and they do it without any fear because even after so many RTIs filed, no action has been taken against those retailers by India’s food regulatory body.
The changing of expiry date stickers takes place in products like juices, biscuits, wafers, and oil. Customers are not at all aware about this type of scam in big retail stores.”
That being the scenario, Mahendra Patel, a small-time Mumbai-based trader, explains the difference between what small traders and big retailers do, “The products which we get for sale from manufacturers if remain unsold and reach expiry date are taken back by the manufacturers. But big retailers are known to violate the norms pertaining to expiry dates by hiding the previous date information and sticking a new sticker on the same.”
Meanwhile, a business management graduate from Bengaluru, who worked as a trainee at a top retailer, informs, “This is a common practice at all the outlets of the company where I worked. It is known for buying processed foods and beverages from manufacturers in bulk at huge discounts and hence, it is not in a position to send them back if remain unsold. So not to lose on the profit that has been made already, expired products are sold with stickers of new dates.”
Mitesh Trivedi, a trader from Anand, Gujarat, narrates his experience, “Recently, I went to a big retailer’s outlet in Anand and was looking at a popular brand of juice. When I saw a sticker stuck on the best before date, I removed it, just then a shop assistant noticed what I was doing and rushed to hush it up.”
On a concluding note, he rues, “When we import products from other countries they are stuck in ports citing product approval and labelling norms. But when big retailers are involved in such expiry date scams then no action is taken by the apex food authority. It is really a strange situation.”
உணவு குறித்து ஒவ்வொரு நாளும் புதிது புதிதாக அறிவுரைகள், ஆலோசனைகள், பயமுறுத்தும் எச்சரிக்கைகளை மக்கள் கேட்டுக் கொண்டிருக்கிறார்கள். இதில் எது உண்மை, எது பொய் என அவர்களால் வேறுபடுத்திக் காண முடியவில்லை.
‘காலை எழுந்தவுடன் காபி குடிக்கக் கூடாது, வேண்டுமானால் க்ரீன் டீ குடியுங்கள்’ என ஒருவர் ஆலோசனை சொல்கிறார். மற்றவர், ‘க்ரீன் டீயை விடவும் ‘சாமோமிலா’ அல்லது ‘கிரான்பெரி டீ’ குடியுங்கள், அதுதான் நல்லது’ என்கிறார்.