The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India or FSSAI recently made major changes to the regulations in place. Over the last few years, FSSAI has been steadily incorporating the shift in consumer behavior in food safety standards. Since the pandemic, more consumers are making purchases online. These purchases include packaged food products, groceries, and take-out from restaurants.
The new regulations bring e-commerce platforms and restaurants under FSSAI regulations and also make food labels more transparent and interpretable. This article goes through some of the key changes that will come into effect from the end of this year.
1. Allergen Declaration is now mandatory
Food business operators now need to mention allergen information in the principal display panel if their food contains potential allergens.
These food products include
- Peanuts and other tree nuts
- cereals that contain gluten
Manufacturers need to add a separate warning that ingredients present in the food may lead to cross-contamination. The new allergen declaration brings the food safety standards of India more in line with the US and European labeling standards.
2. FSSAI introduces new logo for food item not for human consumption
FSSAI has introduced a new logo that marks food products not meant for human consumption. The new logo is a black cross inside a black box. This symbol marks food products sold in retail that are not meant to be consumed. For example, ghee and oil for lamps, food products meant for pets and related items will bear this mark. This symbol will help people who struggle with reading declarations in English or reading small fonts of the labeling.
3. Manufacturers need to add contribution of nutrients to RDA
Manufacturers now need to include how much the nutrients present per serving of the food contributes to the Recommended Daily Allowance or RDA. FSSAI has also provided food businesses operators the value of energy, fats, sugars, and salt that is allowable for an adult per day. The food business operators or FBOs determine the serving size.
According to FSSAI, the RDA constitutes 2000 kcal energy, 67 grams of fat, 22 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 50 grams of added sugar, and 2000 milligrams of sodium. Manufacturers now need to add a column to the nutritional label showing how much percentage of the nutrient is present per serving.
4. Brand name and expiry date to be declared on packed food for airlines and railways
FSSAI is also bringing packaged means under its regime. Here are a few key regulations that manufacturers need to follow.
- Packaged meals that are served in airlines and railways must mention the name of the manufacturer.
- They should come with the veg or non-veg logo and provide all relevant warnings regarding ingredients, such as the presence of any known allergens.
- Details of the brand are now mandatory for packaged meals. If there are space constraints for a complete address, the business can provide its GTIN number.
- Brands also need to provide a clear expiry date and a “best before” date will no longer be enough.
The best before date says that the product can still be consumed after the date has passed. However, it was not clear how long beyond the “best before” date was consumption suitable. Hence, manufacturers now also need to provide a clear expiry date for packaged meals.
5. E-commerce platforms must show mandatory label information
E-commerce platforms operating in the country now need to provide complete nutritional information on the product pages. Here are some key changes regarding e-commerce platforms.
- All mandatory declarations of the product label must be accessible to consumers before they make the purchase.
- Variable declarations such as expiry date and batch numbers do not need to be declared online.
- Plant-based products which were labeled as milk, such as walnut-based milk or soy milk can no longer be categorized as dairy products.
6. Restaurant chains will come under FSSAI authority
According to new policies by FSSAI, restaurants will be under FSSAI authority and will have to comply with certain policies set by the regulatory body.
- Restaurant chains that have more than ten outlets will need to mention the calorific value of the food they are serving in the menu cards, boards, or booklets. They need to stick to “kcal” as the unit of measurement.
- Restaurants should use the veg/non-veg logo, provide allergen warnings and others that are applicable for food business operators.
- E-commerce FBOs like Swiggy and Zomato need to acquire and publish the updated nutritional information in their portal.
7. The age of children is now officially defined
FSSAI has now formally set the age of children as below 18 years of age. Before this, there was no formal demarcation for children.
1. Manufacturers have to declare the name of the food on the front of the packaging
According to the new policy, the name of the food should be in the front of the pack or the principal display panel (PDP). According to the new regulations, here are the key points that manufacturers should keep in mind.
- The true nature of the food, or the composition of the food should be mentioned clearly in the front of the pack.
- Manufacturers cannot just use the brand name or a generic name of the food on the PDP anymore, they must be specific about the type of food. Often in the case of cookies, biscuits, and confectionaries, manufacturers use generic names.
- Manufacturers need to add a disclaimer if the brand name does not reflect the true nature of the product and separately must add the actual product name.
2. FSSAI makes mandatory logos and fonts more inclusive
FSSAI has updated the veg and non-veg logos. The vegetarian logo is a green-filled circle with a green outlined square. The non-vegetarian logo is a brown-filled triangle in a brown outlined box. The sizes for the logos are given in the following table.
The new logos are aimed to help people who are suffering from color-blindness. There is an update to logos for organic food too. The organic logo needs to have the following dimensions.
3. Updated Size of Principal Display Panel
FSSAI has released new regulations for how large the PDP should be. If the packaging is rectangular, the PDP should cover 40% of the width and height. The same is also true for cylindrical containers. For any other shape, the PDP should not be more than 20% of the total surface area. The width of any numeral should not be less than 1/3rd of the total height of the PDP. The following table provides information on how small numerals can be on the packaging
However, mandatory declarations such as added MSG, salt, aspartame, and other additives should not be less than 3mm in height.
4. Updates to ingredients panel
The ingredients panel will need to list ingredients in the descending order of their weight or volume. The ingredients need to be more comprehensive. Sucrose needs to be relabeled as sugar. Similarly, Cocoa beans or powder should be labeled as Cocoa solids. Vegetable fat should be labeled clearly as vegetable fat, fractionated fat, hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils.
5. The expiration date is now mandatory
As with packaged meals, all food products now need to have an expiration date along with the “best before” date. Having both dates will reduce food wastage. It will also give clearer information to the buyer if the food is safe for consumption.
1. Incorporating Hemp/CBD products into the mainstream market
FSSAI is also gearing up for the next wave of products expected to launch in the country. The local hemp and cannabis products were sold illegally in the country up to this point. However, FSSAI has published a draft for hemp seeds and related products back in October 2020 and is currently under review.
2. Regulations for Vegan Products
FSSAI has also issued a draft for packaged vegan food products that lists the compliance mechanisms along with the packaging and labeling requirements of the products. These foods will not have any additives from animal sources and should not be tested on animals. FSSAI has also issued a new “Vegan” logo for packaged vegan food products.
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