Products with ‘safe’ ingredients may not need food regulator’s approval
TheFSSAI is preparing new rules for product approvals after an earlier advisory, which put it at loggerheads with the food processing industry.
NEW DELHI: India’s food regulator may do away with product approvals if the ingredients used have already been cleared or are deemed safe, bringing relief to the food processing industry by introducing a globally accepted norm.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is preparing new rules for product approvals after an earlier advisory, which put it at loggerheads with the industry, was quashed by the Supreme Court for not having legal standing.
"We are in the process of formulating regulations for product approval process. We thought we could take this opportunity to review the procedure rather than just convert the advisory into regulation," said a senior officer of the authority who is aware of the development.
The food processing industry had alleged that the product approval system had paved the way for an "inspector raj" and it also drew flak from food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who criticised the effects of regulatory overreach after the FSSAI imposed a nationwide ban on Nestle’s popular instant noodle brand, Maggi, in June.
The FSSAI’s proposed regulation may require product approval only if a new ingredient or additive is introduced, a practice followed in several developed nations. The regulator has uploaded a list of permitted food additives and food items in which they can be used and the recommended maximum level.
The product approval process was brought in through a May 2013 advisory, which had been challenged by the Maharashtra-based Vital Nutraceuticals and the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association and deemed illegal by the Bombay High Court. The authority appealed in the Supreme Court, which questioned the legal standing of the process as it was an advisory rather than a regulation.
While the FSSAI discontinued the process after the court’s ruling, it uploaded a circular on its website on August 26, which said the product approval process will be brought back as regulation. "Every endeavour will be made to expedite the regulations governing section 22 products," the circular said. The food processing industry feared the procedure outlined in the May 2013 advisory would be enacted as regulations.
The government recently appointed senior IAS officer Pawan Kumar Agarwal as the chief executive officer of the FSSAI in place of Yudhvir Singh Malik, who was behind the ban on Maggi.