India’s FSSAI to finalise on-pack traffic-light labelling regulations

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

FSSAI CEO Agarwal said they are still open to making changes to the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 but it will be finalised in two to three months. ©Getty Images
FSSAI CEO Agarwal said they are still open to making changes to the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 but it will be finalised in two to three months. ©Getty Images
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) plans to finalise its food labelling and display regulations for packaged food products — including proposed traffic light labelling for high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods — within the next two to three months.

However, FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal said the Authority is still open to making changes to the draft that was published in early April​.

Comments and feedback from stakeholders will be taken until early next month.

Significantly, the new regulations would make it mandatory for HFSS foods to have a red warning for consumers on the front of pack.

The draft regulations also state that packaged food manufacturers and firms are required to declare nutritional information such as calories (energy), total fat, trans-fat, total sugar and salt per serve, as well as per serve percentage contribution to the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

A green triangle or brown circle would further indicate whether it is vegetarian or non-vegetarian food.

Agarwal also reiterated what was stated in the draft that, for the first time, packaged food items with 5% or more of genetically-modified (GM) ingredients must have it indicated on the pack label.

He said this would help to “bring clarity”.

"Imported GM food is coming to India. It is in the form of soya products and edible oils. In the case of oils, traces of GM is negligible. So, there will be no labelling,"​ he said.

According to The Telegraph​, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has opposed this measure, highlighting that GM foods are still not permitted in the country.

The activists campaigning against GM crops entering India warned that it “allows for GM foods to come into the food supply chain and on shop shelves, with a simple labelling proviso being fulfilled, when it is illegal to sell GM foods in the first instance."

Studying other models

Agarwal acknowledged that some food businesses have raised concerns about the “thresholds”​ and red labels for HFSS foods.

He said the Authority has been studying the different traffic light labelling models used in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the US, and will continue to seek comments and views from stakeholders before the regulations are finalised.

Such a labelling measure introduced to Western Australian schools​ has been shown to have a positive impact, especially in the food on offer.

The FSSAI issued the draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 last month.

Trans-fat free by 2022?

Agarwal also announced that the FSSAI is targeting to make India trans-fat free by 2022, the 75th year of Indian independence.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had called for a trans-fat ban by 2023.

A notice calling for “suggestions, views, comments, etc.”​ from stakeholders on the Draft Notification relating to Fats, Oils and Fat Emulsions was uploaded to its site on May 16.

The FSSAI has also just launched an initiative to promote safe and nutritious food (SNF) at the workplace to combat alarming increases in obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension.

A framework of FSSAI-trained resource persons, health and wellness coordinators and food safety supervisors for each workplace is also being set up.

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