Packaged food that must be marked red if it does not meet safety standards

NEW DELHI: After the advertising and packaging regulations, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is almost ready with the draft labelling regulations under which the packaged food items across the country will carry large red labels specifying if the food is high on fats, sugar or salt (HFSS).

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The draft regulations will soon be released for public comments, Kumar Anil, adviser to FSSAI, said at Centre for Science and Environment’s ‘National Conclave on Food’ on Friday. While the advertising regulations will come into effect on July 1, the packaging norms were implemented recently.

At the session on ‘regulating bad foods”, large gaps were identified, including in labelling and in claims of companies comparing the nutrient value of their food items to that of healthy products without substantial evidence. Anil assured the audience that the new advertising and claim regulations would keep a tab on the problem.

“We are trying to address claims like pure, real, natural and sugar-free and the new advertising regulations comprehensively cover this. There are parameters for comparison and if you are meeting these parameters, only then you can make a claim. This will be implemented from July 1 to ensure that people are not deceived by any wrong claim by companies,” said Anil.

While the packaging regulations were notified recently, Anil said the new labelling regulations would mark all packaged food items, including the ultra-processed ones, with the ‘red’ mark if they fail to meet the specified standards. Citing examples of sugar and trans fat, Anil said 100gm or 100ml of each item would be taken as the basis with 10% of the total energy coming from sugar warranting a ‘red’ label of high sugar, while 1% of the total energy from trans fat would be taken as beyond the permissible limit.

The draft has taken examples from abroad as well, including Chile that has seen an improvement in eating habits after large warning labels were introduced on the front of all food packets.

“The draft should help iron out some of the problems and it appears to be strong at this stage. The issue of HFSS regulation has been a long-standing problem and the gaps identified by different groups should help increase consumer awareness, allowing people to make better decisions,” said Sunita Narain, director general of CSE.

Responding to the gaps in regulating marketing tactics of the food industry, Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE, said, “We must keep a check on HFSS food advertisements targeted at children. A comprehensive framework to effectively regulate advertisements across broadcasting and new-age digital media is missing.”

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