Just a month after India’s Supreme Court had castigated the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for issuing an advisory in 2013 that required manufacturers to take approvals for products that already existed in the market, ruling that the regulator had overplayed its hand, Bombay High Court dismissed a challenge to the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSS) brought by food industry players.
Upholding the Act’s validity, the bench ruled that it secured minimum levels of purity to secure public health.
“We cannot lose sight of the evil which is sought to be remedied by this [Act],” the court ruled.
The justices added that the Act served “a pivotal role in securing the citizens a minimum degree of purity in food and preserve public health.
“It is aimed at preventing fraud on the consumers and those who are guilty of endangering human life by indulging and dealing with the unsafe food are required to be dealt with iron hands.”
The bench was responding to three actions brought by Mumbai-based industry bodies in 2012 which sought for the FSS to be set aside, calling it “arbitrary”.
The Association of Traders, Mumbai Mewa Masala Merchants and the Association of Indian Hotels and Restaurants (Ahar) claimed the Act was in violation of their right to equality by prevented them from operating freely through “vague and excessive” provisions.
Ahar argued that the Act allowed huge penalties to be imposed, including sizeable fines and imprisonment based on the whim of the regulator.
However, the court disagreed, ruling that the legislation served a higher good.
“The FSS Act has been enacted for the benefit and welfare of the citizens and has direct nexus to the Right to Life as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the judges decided in a 109-page ruling.
Assocham: Edible oil imports will have doubled in two years
The bill for India’s key cooking ingredients will soar to US$14bn this year due to a poor monsoon that is putting pressure on edible oil production, according to an Assocham agribusiness report.
India imported a record US$10bn of edible oils in the last financial year, the representative body of Indian chambers of commerce and industry found.
However, the current 2015-16 year is expected to see this total grow alarmingly as oilseed production in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu is predicted to drop.
“The deficit in rainfall so far for the year as per the latest available information is 12%, therefore assuming that the production of oil seeds for 2015-16 remains at the level of 2014-15, and anticipating a rise in demand, vegetable oils imports would reach around US$14bn for 2015-16, which was actually around USD 10 billion last year,” Assocham’s report said.
This means imports will have nearly doubled since 2013-13, when India shipped in US$7.2bn worth of oils.
Growth in domestic oilseed production has not kept pace with increasing demand, Assocham said, especially due to low and unstable yields of most oilseed crops and industrial issues.
“India’s oilseed processing sector has been plagued by a slew of technological and policy issues culminating in the existence of a processing sector low in efficiency and capacity utilisation,” said Assocham secretary general DS Rawat.
Figures show malnutrition down, over-nutrition up
Though India has made significant progress in reducing malnutrition, the latest Global Nutrition Report has highlighted raised concerns over increasing rates of obesity.
This trend, the report said, will "double the burden" of non-communicable diseases in the country.
Currently, India has the world’s third-highest obesity rate after the United States and China, the report said, with one in five Indians either overweight or obese.
The report blamed the fast-growing trend of packaged food consumption in emerging and rural food systems as a leading cause of obesity in India. It said 6.7% of Indian women were now obese and 3.2% of men.
Nutrition bars to see lightning growth over next five years
India’s nutrition bar market is projected to grow at an annual rate of over 29% until 2020, according to market analyst Research and Markets.
The growth is taking place on the back of rising health concerns and growing middle-class consumption. Most demand is coming from consumers below the age of 40, with this trend expected to gain ground over the next five years.
Segment wise, cereal bars dominate and account for more than three-quarters of the nutrition bar market. However, the market is still at a nascent stage due to high selling prices and low consumer awareness levels, especially among those in rural areas.
Yet due to the increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about their eating habits, Research and Markets said.
As a result, a rising number of consumers are including nutrition bars in their routine diet, offering significant opportunities for domestic and international companies to operate in India.
Moreover, increasing pollution levels and rising concerns over the high concentration of pesticides in traditional food products has resulted in an increasing number of Indian consumers opting for fortified foods to improve nutrition in their diets.
Naturell, General Mills, Nouveau Medicament and Xterra Nutrition are among the leading manufacturers in the country, Research and Markets said.
Bangladesh’s processing sector growing in spite of challenges
Demand for processed foods in Bangladesh is picking up, thanks to rising incomes and busy lifestyles.
Overall sales of processed foods should grow at a compound annual rate of 17% up to 2018, reaching a value of US$21.2bn, according to Euromonitor International.
Once again, increasing disposable incomes and a growing urban middle-class are contributing to this growth.
However, the processed foods sector still faces challenges in establishing workable cold chains, uninterrupted power supplies and managing a lack of skilled manpower.