Customers browse groceries in a supermarket in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

FSSAI Ropes In Expert Panel To Review Food Labelling Standards

The government has put on hold the draft that proposes red-labelling of packaged food products containing high levels of fat, sugar and salt, and the food safety regulator has set up a panel to look into the issue.

“Our pre-draft was ready and sent to the Health Ministry,” Food Safety and Standards Authority of India Chief Executive Officer Pawan Kumar Agarwal said at a national consultation on the draft regulation organised by non-profit CUTS International. “Since there were concerns expressed by some stakeholders, we have kept it on hold for the time being and a group of experts from health and nutrition background has been set up to look into the issue of labelling once again.”

The panel will be headed by B Sesikeran, former director of National Institute of Nutrition, its current director Hemalatha, besides doctor Nikhil Tandon, he said.

The food safety regulator had come out with the draft of Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations 2018 in April that proposed mandatory red-label marking on such packaged food products.

The labelling regulations have remained a contentious issue in the food industry which sees it as an impediment to their sales. Agarwal said the panel will study in detail the concerns of the industry and make recommendations.

Pitching to bring in strong labelling norms at the earliest, he said it’s difficult to ask consumers to change their eating habits as some eat mindlessly, while some cannot differentiate between healthy and unhealthy food products. “In this situation, I feel we can make a dent if we can address it at the supply side by asking companies to adhere to the labelling norms.”

Agarwal said the regulator will go ahead with the labelling norms even if there is no consensus on the matter after the panel’s suggestions.