Verifying vegan integrity: India mandates traceability as key criterion for firms to obtain regulatory approval
Specific regulations to govern vegan foods and beverages have been in the works since last year, when FSSAI issued a notification on draft regulations specifying the creation of a new logo specifically for vegan foods in addition to labelling and display requirements.
Earlier this year, the agency implemented the enforcement of new vegan regulations with immediate effect but with an interesting addition, which was the mandating of traceability within the production value chain of all foods and beverages looking to make the vegan claim.
“There shall be traceability established up to the manufacturer level, and the [relevant food firm] shall comply with any other requirements specified by the Food Authority to maintain the vegan integrity of the foods or food ingredients or products,” FSSAI CEO Arun Singhal said via a formal statement.
“[This has been included after careful consideration] of the objections and suggestions received from the public.
“[Key areas where precautions must be taken by the food firms] includes all stages of production, processing and distribution which must be designed with appropriate precautions in conformity with Good Manufacturing Practices [so as to] avoid the unintended presence of non-vegan substances.
“[For example,] if the same production line is shared with non-vegan products or ingredients, thorough cleaning or comparable measures must be carried out before production of vegan products commences and the same shall extend to all associated machinery, equipment, utensils and surfaces.”
Vegan food firms will need to include traceability in their operations in order to claim their products as vegan, as only products with the new vegan logo [as seen in picture] will be considered in compliance with the vegan regulations, and companies will need to apply for this.
“FSSAI will specify the guidelines for the approval of the vegan logo, [but] all food firms must submit their applications to their local licensing authorities and obtain approvals [before] they can include and display this on their products,” the agency stated.
“In addition to traceability requirements, all vegan foods will also need to comply with local packaging and labelling requirements. This includes [compulsory] display of the vegan logo on all packages.
“Vegan foods will also need to be stored and displayed in a manner that is easily distinguishable from non-vegan foods [at] retail outlets.”
International firms looking to bring vegan food products into India will also be affected by this new ruling, as extra documentation will now be required in addition to the general food import licenses and verifications.
“No vegan food products shall be imported [into India] except with a certificate issued by the recognised authorities of the exporting countries. This must be presented in the format as specified by [FSSAI so that it will be] accepted,” Singhal added.
The requirements as laid out in the new regulations are effective immediately, although FSSAI has not as yet specified on its portal a full list of guidelines for the vegan logo application and approval or import documentation formats.
Vegan food – safety from and for animals
India has one of the largest vegan and vegetarian populations in the world, so it also comes as no surprise that FSSAI has developed vegan-specific regulations and linked this to a food safety motivation.
“[It is very important that vegan foods in India] are of high integrity and [vegan consumers] are safe from any animal components in their diet,” said the agency.
“So these new regulations are meant to ensure that the vegan foods they [have access to] only contain food ingredients (including additives, flavourings, enzymes and carriers, or processing aids) that are not products of animal origin.
“At no stage of production and processing [should these] ingredients, have been used [and] this is why traceability is important here.
“[Additionally] the food products to be called vegan must also not have involved anumal testing for any purpose – including safety evaluations – unless so provided or permitted by any regulatory authority.”