India

FSSAI to revamp guidelines to include thousands more products

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the current system was hurting the food industry
Food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the current system was hurting the food industry

Related tags: Food, Food safety and standards authority of india

The public will have the best part of a month to offer input into new guidelines for proprietary foods, health supplements and additives as India’s food regulator sets out to include thousands more items that were not covered under its rules.

In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling last week that called into question the practices of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the regulator is now planning to include 1,000 items under the health supplements and nutraceuticals category, with a further 5,000 to 6,000 more items under foods.

The current regulations, which were released in 2011, only cover 377 items, meaning that food companies have been required to submit any other ingredients, regardless of their widespread use, for approval.

Thousands of approvals held up

This in turn has led to a regulatory logjam of approvals, though it is hoped the FSSAI’s delayed action will go some way to reducing the length of this queue. Following consultation, the guidelines will go to the law ministry before being considered by Parliament. Any guidelines are expected to be notified next year.

The proposed regulations are positive from the point of view of companies as well as consumers as there will be specific regulations and standards which were hitherto absent in India​,” RK Sanghavi, of the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association of India (IDMA), told Business Line​ after the FSSAI announced it was seeking public comments.

The new FSSAI guidelines should bring India into compliance with international standards under Codex Alimentarius, to which it is a signatory although the country’s regulator has yet to follow its provisions.

‘System needs best practices’

Last week, India’s highest court ruled that the FSSAI’s entire processes were invalid after it had appealed a ruling by Bombay high court for IDMA and a private company, Vital Nutraceuticals, from 2013 after they challenged the regulator’s system of product approvals.

In a television interview yesterday, food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal registered her criticism of the regulator, saying its practices were harming the food industry’s growth, one of the pillars of the government’s drive to encourage domestic manufacturing.

Our food regulatory standards needs to move towards best practices adopted globally. In order to give a push to Make in India, we need to harmonise [our rules] with global standards​,” Badal told Bloomberg TV.

She added that the food processing ministry had been in regular contact with the health ministry, which controls the FSSAI, to devise means for faster approvals.

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, South Asia

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