The equivalent of the FDA in the USA, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the regulatory body governing food laws of our country. It was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) passed in 2006, and comes under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. FSSAI regulates and monitors all food-related industrial bodies and was set up to ensure the availability of nutritious wholesome food. In this article, we discuss three food safety laws set by the FSSAI that you may find useful in your daily life:
Food safety laws you must know as a consumer:
1. Packaging and labelling laws
For packaging, FSSAI has set clear guidelines on the usage and re-use of containers and utensils. It also provides specific requirements for packaging of milk and milk products, edible oil/fat, fruits and vegetable products, canned meat products and drinking water. In each case, the type of container used should be free of leakage, rust and chipping. Chemical compositions of packaging are also specified in order to ensure food safety. Any product that does not adhere to the regulations shall be deemed unfit for consumption.
Labelling requirements suggested by FSSAI:
General requirements for labels include legibility under normal conditions and no misleading or false information. The information on the label may be present in English and/or Hindi. The label cannot be separable from the package. All pre-packaged food must contain:
- the name, the list of ingredients and nutritional information
- a declaration regarding vegetarian or non-vegetarian
- the presence of food additives
- the ingredients must be listed in descending order of composition by weight or volume
- nutritional information per 100 ml/gm or per serving of the product
- Should include energy value in kcal, the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat in grams and the amount of any other nutrient for which a health claim is made.
- A brown colour logo for non-vegetarian or green for vegetarian must be featured prominently with a contrasting background.
- Net quantity, lot/batch identification, date of manufacturing and ‘best before’ date also must be mentioned on the packaging.
- For infant foods and for those containing aspartame, the expiry date must be mentioned instead of the ‘best before’ date.
- The country of origin and instructions of use have to be specified.
2. Organic food guidelines
In light of healthy, environmentally conscious and sustainable eating, it is important to note what constitutes as organic food. Also it’s important how to identify if any foods sold under an organic food store are regulated and stamped by the FSSAI as organic. The latest regulations for organic were set by a gazette released on 29th December 2017. Organic food in India must comply with the provisions set by the following authorities:
- Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India)
- National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)
The recognition of the organic status of a product is two-fold. The packaging must have FSSAI’s organic logo as well as logos prescribed by any of the above two systems on the label. A seller of organic food should display them in a manner distinguishable from the non-organic foods. Traceability with organic foods is also a must. It is important to note that imported organic foods from certain countries with bilateral or multilateral agreements need not be recertified by the NPOP, PGS or FSSAI.
3. Laws pertaining to nutraceuticals and health supplements
If you have been contemplating the benefits or effects of dietary supplements such as multivitamins these laws may be helpful to you. The gazette released on 23rd December 2016 sets the guidelines for:
- Health Supplements
- Food for Special Medical Purpose
- Food for Special Dietary Use
- Novel Food and Functional Food
Some interesting things to note are:
- Health supplements are regulated for use only for persons above 5 years of age
- Each health claim must be accompanied by a specific nutrient in the formula which is known to produce the claimed effects
- No company can claim to cure diseases, only to prevent or reduce risks
- Evidence-based scientific study must be carried out for every product
- Quantity of any ingredient in the product cannot exceed daily allowance limits
All details provided above are taken directly from the official FSSAI website. The FSSAI regularly updates its archives in order to better inform citizens about their right to food safety. If you find any product/company/restaurant not following the proper guidelines, reporting the same to authorities or filing a PIL would go a long way in not just ensuring safety for you and your family, but all citizens of the country.