Archive for November, 2012

Labels must for GM food

30,November, 2012 Comments off

Industry clueless about implementing labelling rule; FSSAI dithers over regulations

A supermarket in Moscow. Label of GM-free food is seen in the foregroundA supermarket in Moscow. Label of GM-free food is seen in the foreground (Photo: Reuters)

INDIA MAY NOT have started growing genetically modified (GM) food crops, but it does import food products that contain GM ingredients. Consumers who buy them have no way of knowing what they contain. Recently, the department of consumer affairs under the Union food and consumer affairs ministry decided to take a corrective measure to help consumers make an informed choice. It mandated that all packaged food products containing GM ingredients should carry a GM label from January 1, 2013.

The department notified 19 commodities to be covered by the new labelling rule under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules. These include baby food, biscuits, breads, edible oils, milk powder, cereals and pulses. “Every consumer has a right to know what kind of food he or she is eating, and with the controversy over health impacts of genetically modified food, labelling becomes all the more important,” says B N Dixit, director (legal metrology) with the department of consumer affairs.

Who will monitor?

But how will the new rule get implemented? The consumer affairs department deals only with packaging, and weights and measures. Dixit says it is for the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to decide what information should be displayed and in what manner. FSSAI was mandated by the Food Safety Standards Act of 2006 to regulate GM food and draft regulations for labelling food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These have not been finalised till date.

imageDown To Earth (DTE) asked FSSAI what specific symbol would be used for GM labelling, how it plans to monitor GM labelling and whether it has drafted rules for implementing it. FSSAI chief executive officer, S N Mohanty, had this to say in his written response: “Regulations for labelling of GM food are under preparation in FSSAI and these would be incorporated in labelling and packaging regulations of FSSAI which is under preparation.”

In 2010, FSSAI had prepared an interim regulation—Operationalising the Regulation of Genetically Modified Foods in India. It says that to manage the regulatory programme for GM foods, FSSAI would establish a new secretariat—GM Foods and Food Safety Assessment Unit (GMFSAU). It would have a multi-disciplinary team of scientists trained in safety assessment.

This unit would assess and decide whether the GM event (gene insertion) for which approval is sought can be considered as safe as non-GM food. The report of GMFSAU would then be reviewed by FSSAI’s expert committee on GM foods, which would also oversee the public consultations process before giving its recommendation (see diagram).

But this interim regulation may end up as an exercise on paper. Mohanty says the department of biotechnology has since mooted the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill for a single regulator for genetically modified food. Since BRAI has come into picture, it is yet to be made clear who will regulate GM food.

FSSAI’ s proposal for GM food safety assessmentThe food processing industry, meanwhile, is clueless about what needs to be done before the approaching deadline of January 1. Industry sources say they cannot act unless they get clear instructions. Dixit blames FSSAI for the situation, saying the consumer affairs department had given it more than six months to formulate regulations.

“Our department plans to hold public awareness campaigns through advertisements about GM labelling and we’ll be at work from January 1,” he says. The consumer affairs department has powers to penalise violators and seize consignments of their products.

The one-line rule notified by the consumer affairs department has baffled activists, too. The glut of imported food products is from countries that do not follow GM labelling standards, like the US and Canada. There is no way of tracing the origin of these and indigenous food products, and this is one of the biggest hurdles in implementing a GM labelling regime.

The hurdles

“How will the consumer affairs ministry hold companies and brands liable when there is no system of trace-back (of ingredients used in a product)?” asks Shivani Singh, campaigner for sustainable agriculture with non-profit Greenpeace India. The ministry needs to flesh out the notification to meet the desired objective, she points out.

She says the authorities should adopt zero-tolerance for GMOs that have not been approved for commercialisation in India. “Any traceable amount of GMOs (>0.01 per cent) should be reflected on the packages,” she says.

Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture says the new rule has addressed one aspect of the problem relating to packaged foods. “But the question is how labelling can be implemented when most of the consumption is of food sold in loose form.” She says not a single case has been registered so far against importers of products containing GM ingredients like corn, canola and soy, and there is no system for segregating such products.

She cited the example of import of 64 kg of pickles from Japan, containing GM corn and soy, by a Japanese restaurant in Delhi in 2009. A civil society organisation had complained but the case was never taken to its logical end, says Kuruganti. At present, about 40 countries have the GM labelling system, either mandatory or voluntary (see list).

A major constraint in implementing the GM labelling regime in India is shortage of laboratories equipped to test food products for GM ingredients. There are just a handful of them, like the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) at Mysore, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics at Hyderabad and the National Bureau of Plant and Genetic Resources in Delhi.

A senior official with the department of consumer affairs says upgrading lab facilities will be considered once the practice is established.

Scientists add that DNA-based methods for testing genetic modification are expensive and tedious, requiring highly skilled, trained personnel. Scientists at CFTRI-Mysore say that every company is developing its own genetically modified crop with different genes because of which there is no universal and precise method to detect GMOs. For example, in herbicide tolerant soy (GM soy), two different genes confer resistance to glyphosate and glufosinate, commonly used herbicides.

So, for genetic testing of soy, scientists need to set up different protocols and optimise and standardise procedures for identifying promoter genes that regulate the expression of neighbouring genes. Thus, testing for GMOs needs to be on case-to-case basis. Scientists also enumerate difficulties in obtaining samples of crops like GM soy seed or seed powder from which DNA is to be extracted. These are required to ascertain whether the testing procedure is correct. Effective and efficient sampling plans are needed to get the most representative sample.

The procedure for importing samples of modified and unmodified crops or food stuffs requires clearances from various ministries, beginning with application to the Institutional Biosafety Committee. Once this approval is granted, an import licence and approval is required from the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage under the agriculture ministry. After this, the developer firm has to be approached for seed and leaf powders—and the firm can easily turn down the request. A German company, FLUKA, supplies “certified reference materials” of a few GM crops, but at a high cost of Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 per gram.

Scientists add that in processed food, DNA degradation is very common, and therefore the methodology has to be modified and optimised by simulating processing operations, such as baking and autoclaving.

The absence of a sound regulatory and enforcement regime means consumers may not really have a choice over what they eat even after the new labelling rule comes into force.

Categories: NEWS

Obtain/renew licences by February 4, dealers told

30,November, 2012 Comments off

Sellers and producers of eatables including hawkers selling vegetables and fruits either by head load or through push carts, owners of roadside chilli chicken stalls, tea stalls and other eateries, retail dealers in foodstuffs, owners of rice mills and oil mills and owners of hotels, restaurants, bakeries, mutton stalls, milk producers and sellers, those running canteens in schools, colleges, business establishments and factories and those cooking food in marriage halls in Vellore district have been asked to obtain/renew their licences under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 before February 4, 2013.

According to a release from the Collector of Vellore district, the registration of the names of the dealers and producers and obtaining the licence to sell/supply/produce the eatables have been made compulsory under the Act. The organisations required to obtain licences included fair price shops, Indian Made Foreign Liquor shops run by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation, places where ‘annadhanam’ is performed and ‘prasadam’ distributed in temples, and hostels run by the Departments of Adi Dravidar Welfare and Backward Classes Welfare.

The Collector said that all government-owned establishments dealing in edible items have already obtained the licence. Dealing in edible items and foodstuffs without licence is considered a crime under the Act, which is punishable with a maximum of six months imprisonment or maximum fine of Rs.five lakhs.

Small, tiny and medium establishments doing business in edible items and having a turnover of up to Rs.12 lakh should fill Form ‘A’ available with the concerned Food Safety Officer, while those having a turnover of above Rs.12 lakh should fill Form ‘B’ available with the District Designated Officer, Food Safety Department, whose office is located in the 5th floor of the ‘A’ Block of the Collectorate in Sathuvachari, Vellore. The Food Safety and Standards Act requires the food establishments to keep their premises clean and hygienic. Persons afflicted with infectious diseases should not be employed in their establishments. The premises should be free from rats, insects and disease-causing germs. They should not reuse used edible oil.

Existing licence-holders should renew or modify their licences before February 4, 2013. Those who have not so far obtained their licences should apply immediately and obtain their licences before the same date. Exports and importers of food items should apply for licences before December 4, 2012.

Further particulars could be had by contacting the District Designated Officer, Food Safety Department (ph.0416-2252249, 9698938880).

M.S. Sampath Kumar, District Designated Officer told TheHindu that there are 27 block-level Food Safety Officers in Vellore district.

Categories: NEWS

Too good to be believed

30,November, 2012 Comments off



Advertisements tend to influence consumers’ choice to a large extent. All products claim to be better and more effective than the other, leaving buyers to fall for them.

In this scenario, the notice of Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) to 19 food products for making misleading and deceptive claims without any studies to substantiate them, would rather make people rethink their beliefs.
FSSAI has sent notices to health drinks Horlicks, Bournvita, Boost, cooking oil Saffola, Today Premium Tea, Maggie Multi-grainz noodles, Kelloggs Extra Muesli and others.
Metrolife talks to consumer rights activists and buyers on the issue as these are the products that make way to almost every household.
While activists feel that government consumer redressal forums are neither capable nor willing to tackle the problem, owing to their political agendas, buyers continue to remain at the receiving end.
Rajeev Yadav, a member of Supreme Court Bar Association and national president of Adhikaar — the rights path, says false claims regarding food products is a very serious matter and a concerns people of all age groups.
“People can approach consumer courts but there is no point doing that too as the decisions given are very weak. In the US, the fines imposed by consumer courts are huge. Here, district consumer forums and state consumer disputes redressal commissions give judgements which suit the government agenda,” he says
“The judgements made by these bodies are weak. That is why multinational companies easily get away despite deficiency in services and unfair trade practices. The  Consumer Protection Act has got all clauses and is good enough but is not implemented strongly,” he adds.
Abhishek Kaushik of Consumers Forum, which works for Consumer Protection Act, 1986, says their experience has been that small companies cooperate, but big and multinational companies are not scared of the law.
“The products to which FSSAI notice has been sent belong to big brands. They spend crores on ads but when it comes to giving compensation, the amount gets shrunk. Thanks to our implementation machinery. It is better if people use their mind for buying things instead of trusting the commercials.”
However, for buyers, advertisements end up becoming a major criteria which help them choose from countless products and services. Many of them are unaware of such notices being sent to the companies whose products they rely blindly.
Rita Sharma, a Delhi-based homemaker, says, “I always thought if  companies are making such claims and that too through TV commercials, there would be some truth in them. We simply go by what they promise without noticing the ingredients. Anyway we, as consumers don’t have any other option than buying these products.”
Ruma, a professional and mother of two schoolchildren, says, “I rely on health drinks which claim to help increase height and in overall development of kids. We are no experts and simply trust such claims. If what they show in ads is far from truth, why should I buy them?”

Categories: NEWS

No tea trade without conforming to FSSAI parameters: Tea Board

30,November, 2012 Comments off


Kolkata, (IANS) In a bid to ensure quality and protect the image of India tea globally, the Tea Board of India Thursday said no tea can be exported from or imported into the country from February if it does not conform to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) parameters.

“Effective Feb 1, 2013, no teas can either be exported from or imported into India, without conforming to FSSAI parameters and teas would be subjected to random testing,” a Tea Board of India release said here.

FSSAI was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 as a statutory body for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and regulating manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale and import of food so as to ensure safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Against the backdrop of various quality issues that have cropped up in recent years, the tea board has already taken firm steps to protect and enhance the image of Indian tea globally and to ensure that only tea worthy of the tagline ‘Indian tea’ is exported.

The board has recently established Tea Councils for both north and south India to put in place an online mandatory mechanism to track all exports and imports of tea and ensure that quality norms are enforced.

Categories: NEWS

பள்ளியில் உணவு பாதுகாப்பு அதிகாரிகள் ஆய்வு

29,November, 2012 Comments off


Categories: NEWS

The big fat lies: Food regulator exposes ads marred by bogus claims on nutritional value, prepares to prosecute 19 cases –IndiaToday News

29,November, 2012 Comments off


You are being led up the garden path by manufacturers of food and health products making tall claims in advertisements.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) – which put many products under its scanner over the misleading claims – has initiated proceedings in 38 cases involving leading brands.
The food regulator, which has received complaints against the products, has begun prosecution proceedings in 19 cases under the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act.

Show-cause notices have been issued in the other 19 cases. The advertisements of the products, which are popular with most Indian households, promise quick results from slimming to healthy heart and faster growth for children.
The food regulator, which has presented a report to Parliament on the action taken in these cases, found that the companies manufacturing the food and health products not only made misleading claims in the advertisements but also carried similar pictures on the packaging.
For instance, Complan is currently facing prosecution for claiming one can "grow two times faster". Complan Memory is in trouble over claims of boosting memory.
Boost and Horlicks, popular nutrition food for children made by Glaxo Smithkline, claimed they were better for stamina building than regular chocolate drinks and made children taller, stronger and sharper.
The FSSAI said these claims were "misleading, and no study has been submitted" to back the claims.
On Kellogg’s Extra Muesli, the food regulator said the "label showed a number of fruits thus making a misleading claim that product contained too many fruits".
Others products under the food regulator’s scanner are Emami Soyabean Oil, Saffola, Nutri Charge Men, Engine mustard oil, Kellogg’s Special K, Britannia NutriChoice biscuits, Today Premium Tea, PediaSure drinks, Real Active Fibre +, Nutrilite, Kissan Cream Spread, Rajdhani Besan and Britannia Vita Marie.
These were found to have promised higher health benefits, higher nutritional value, or faster benefits like losing weight or ensuring growth.
The report presented to Parliament by FSSAI showed it had rejected some of the replies to the notices given by the companies saying they "cannot be accepted".
No comments
When contacted by Mail Today, officials from various companies like Kellogg’s, Glaxo SmithKline that manufactures Horlicks and Nestle which makes Maggi declined to comment immediately.
However, the officials were aware of the show-cause notices issued to their firms by FSSAI. Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of the Centre for Science and Environment(CSE), said, "Only notices have issued but no action has been taken. Still, it’s good that notices have been issued."

Click here to Enlarge

"Misbranding is a huge problem in the country. The companies target especially children and the health conscious, which is a very emotive issue."
He said the Advertising Standards Council of India is ineffective in putting curbs on such misleading ads. He added that under the current provisions of the FSS Act, a fine of `10 lakh is very small.
He suggested that penalty should be proportionate to the turnover. "Major reforms are needed in the sector to save people," Bhushan said.
Neelanjana Singh, consultant nutritionist at PSRI Hospital said, "Our children cannot just become taller with that special drink. Height, for example, is largely dependent on genes and nutrition."
"Just a drink might add to the nutrition but cannot solely be given credit for it. If we are to believe the manufacturing companies’ claims, all health woes will just disappear."
Deceptive ads
Singh described the ads as deceptive. She said some drinks boast of being magic potions which can strengthen a child’s immune system, protect them from cold and cough but have almost no medicinal content.
"There is no scientific evidence to back their claims," she said. For special health drinks, dieticians said that their nutrition value, in fact, is low.
"In almost all these health drinks in the market, you would find from their labels that less than 6-7 per cent of their total content actually has proteins and vitamins vital for growth."
"The rest of the drink has processed ingredients, with 30 per cent sugar and 30 per cent carbs. The different flavours too are processed, rendering them in certain cases, unhealthy," said Shilpa Thakur, chief dietician at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.
Said Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist and founder, Whole Foods on breakfast cereals, "Breakfast cereals which are said to be storehouses of energy, are marketed as fat free but they are high in sugar content."
"The advertisers are simply riding high on the health bandwagon which everyone seems to have joined."
In March this year, CSE had lab tested many of the popular brands and found that most of them had higher quantity of trans fats, sugar and salt than claimed in the labels.
The misleading advertisements come under the purview of the FSSAI and the Information and Broadcasting ministry. Consumers often write to these bodies against products making big claims.
The Information and Broadcasting ministry, on its part, claimed that it had issued an advisory to all channels in May 2010 warning against advertising products promising special and miraculous cure.
Khosla said that a "health fear" had gripped people. "These companies are simply playing on the fear factor by making fat claims.
The competition is too stiff and that has led to the spurt in the health products and their claims are getting bigger and bigger. Consumers should read the fine print carefully before falling for them."

Read more at:

Categories: NEWS


28,November, 2012 2 comments


GRI SF   decided to celebrate GOLDEN JUBILEE  on 23.12.2012 SUNDAY

Categories: NEW POST

Salmonella: US FDA suspends operations of Sunland Inc.; alert in India

28,November, 2012 Comments off

Salmonella outbreaks have been dominating US headlines for sometime now but the latest strike by Salmonella Bredeney seems to be the deadliest as it has resulted in suspension of operations of one of the offending companies and USFDA alert on tainted products at an international level including India.
In the latest incident, the bacteria has sickened 41 people in 20 states in USA, and hence, apart from usual actions such as issuing food alerts and ordering recalls, this time the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has ensured suspension of operations of a peanut butter plant belonging to Sunland Inc. The company, a producer of nuts and seed spreads, also has a history of violations.
Interestingly, this was the USFDA’s first use of its registration suspension authority, under the new Food Safety Modernisation Act. This new authority enables the agency to take this action when food manufactured, processed, packed, received, or held by a facility has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals, and other conditions are met.
As for the USFDA alert at international level and recall of products within USA, even India through its apex food authority – FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), has been issued an alert on the companies and their products which are suspected to be tainted.
S N Mohanty, CEO, FSSAI, explained to FnB News, “The Salmonella outbreak has taken place in the US but we have asked the Indian importers to be alert and careful. Even though we have asked all the states’ food commissioners to be alert and check the products imported from Sunland Inc., there are chances of consignments coming in India through Malaysia and Philippines.”
However, Amit Lohani, convenor, Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI), differed, “The importers from India do not import the products from Sunland Inc. The outbreak of Salmonella will not have any impact on India.”
Yet worry remains for India as the alert issued by FSSAI mentions sales via Internet and other modern methods that are not easily traceable. Also the country’s poor food recall record is a cause of concern when it comes to ensuring that the tainted products belonging to Sunland as well as other companies are not sold or consumed.
Meanwhile, a review of Sunland Inc.’s product testing records pointed out that 11 product lots of nut butter showed the presence of Salmonella between June 2009 and September 2012. Between March 2010 and September 2012, at least a portion of 8 product lots of nut butter that Sunland Inc.’s own testing programme identified as containing Salmonella was distributed by the company to consumers.
Additionally, during its inspection of the plant in September and October 2012, the USFDA found the presence of Salmonella in 28 environmental samples (from surfaces in production or manufacturing areas) and in 13 nut butter product samples and one product sample of raw peanuts. Four of the peanut butter product samples showed the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bredeney.
The suspension order offers Sunland Inc. the opportunity to request an informal hearing on certain issues related to the order. If, after providing this opportunity, the USFDA determines that the suspension remains necessary, it will require Sunland, Inc. to submit a corrective action plan to address the immediate problems and implement a sustainable solution to those problems in a sound scientific manner. The USFDA will reinstate Sunland Inc.’s registration only when it determines that the company has implemented procedures to produce safe products.
The USFDA immediately put out a recall of the infected items. The alert now includes tahini, almond and cashew butters, and blanched and roasted peanut products which have been sold to large groceries and other food distributors across the US. Over 100 products are being recalled, some having been manufactured from as long ago as March 1, 2010, to those manufactured till September 24, 2012.
Further, the USFDA conducted an inspection and investigators found that conditions in the company’s facility, the company’s manufacturing processes, and the company’s testing programme for Salmonella may have allowed peanut butter that contained Salmonella to be distributed by the company. What was worse was that the manufacturing company had voluntarily sent out samples for sale, which they knew contained traces of Salmonella.
The USFDA found that between June 2009 and August 2012, Sunland had distributed, or cleared for distribution, portions of peanut or almond butter after its own testing programme identified the presence of at least one of nine different Salmonella types. An additional five product samples collected and analysed by USFDA from Sunland showed the presence of Salmonella which had not been picked up by the manufacturer. Among those products were peanut butter and shelled raw peanuts.
Salmonellosis is an infection with a bacterium called Salmonella. Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhoea, fever and abdominal cramps. The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness. Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal faeces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Raw foods of animal origin are frequently contaminated.
The USFDA investigators found that employees improperly handled equipment, containers, and utensils used to hold and store food. Employees handling peanut products wiped gloved hands on street clothes and other times failed to wash their hands or change gloves. There were no hand washing sinks in the peanut processing building production or packaging areas and employees had bare-handed contact with ready-to-package peanuts.
According to an estimate, Salmonella food poisoning causes infection in around 20 million people worldwide each year and is responsible for about 200,000 human deaths. It also infects farm animals and attaches to vegetables.

Categories: NEWS

High Court asks TDB to ensure food hygiene

28,November, 2012 Comments off

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the Travancore Devaswom Board to maintain good hygiene and manufacturing practices while preparing appam for the Sabarimala pilgrims.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice A V Ramakrishnapillai issued the directive while considering the report of Food safety Commissioner, laboratory reports and special commissioner’s report regarding the issue. “Kootu for the appams should  be made as per the traditional practice. It should not be diluted or changed without the permission of the court. It was deplorable to see that the appam was kept in open space, leading to fungus infection,” the HC said.
The technical assistant to Food Safety Commissioner found serious irregularities in preparing and packing appam during his visit after the controversy. The court ordered that the health of the pilgrims was more important. “No food times, including prasadam unfit for consumption, should be distributed to Sabarimala pilgrims,” the court said. That the prasadam being distributed for pilgrims is ‘’unfit for human consumption’’ is cause for anxiety, it added.
The court directed that the food safety  officials should have strict vigilance over the food being sold in Sabarimala and added that the objective was to prevent  passing of food unfit for consumption as prasadam. The food safety officers should inspect the premises every four hours so as to ensure hygienic condition.
The food safety official had directed destruction of the fungus-infested appams and cleaning the premises before storage. The court also pointed out the laboratory test reports confirming that the appam samples collected from the devaswom store were infested with fungus.
The court also directed the Travancore Devaswom Board to take effective steps  to ensure that appam was packed and distributed in  ‘first in first out’ method. A separate register should be maintained for entering the details of production, packing and distribution. The lab reports had stated that the shelf life of the appam had been reduced by storing huge quantities. The buffer stock of appam need not be kept for long days.
The court  said that the contractors who had been given the right to prepare the apppam should employ skilled and experienced labourers for making high-quality appams.
The cleaning operations should not be stopped based on the plea that the manufacture of the appam  would be affected. In fact, proper hygiene should be maintained at the manufacturing unit. The personal hygiene of the labourers should also be ensured, the court said.
The court further made it clear that former chief secretary K Jayakumar would exercise all authority in his capacity as chief coordinator.
He should be provided personal staff, police security and  other facilities as if he was the chief secretary. The court also made it clear that the rights of the board members to take decisions shall not be affected by this order.

Categories: NEWS