India's fast-moving consumer good (FMCG) industry is unhappy with the new draft labelling regulations issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Nearly 70 percent of the packaged food available in the market will have to be coded "red" if the labelling regulations are implemented in its present form. To prevent this overhaul, the FMCG industry is working on a joint representation to submit to the food regulator, sources close to the matter told CNBC-TV18.
As per the FSSAI's draft 'Labelling and Display' regulations, consumer goods companies will have to declare nutritional information on the front of the pack. This means that calories, saturated fat, trans-fat, added sugar and sodium per serve will have to mentioned right in front of the cover. As a part of this, blocks of nutrients for “High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) food shall be coloured ‘red.’"
The regulator has also laid out nutrient thresholds above which food will fall under the HFFS category and will be coded red. These draft regulations were issued about 10 days ago and stakeholders are given 30 days to come back to the regulator with comments or suggestions.
Sources told CNBC-TV18 that companies will have to change existing and future product formulations to avoid the “red” coding and are therefore concerned about the basis of the set nutrient thresholds in each category. They suggest that the threshold for each category should be according to the Indian dietary pattern. According to companies, most of the thresholds are set according to global standards, which are not necessarily applicable in India. The coding will also discriminate between packaged food and fresh food with the same level of FSS, said sources.
When contacted, the FSSAI said that the labelling regulations are still in its draft stage and that they have been trying to address concerns of companies on the issue.
In a statement to CNBC-TV18, a Hindustan Unilever Ltd spokesperson said, "While changes proposed by way of draft regulation is a progressive step to factor in dynamics of the evolving market and protect the interest of the consumers, we believe there should be some flexibility in the regulation on labelling to encourage differentiation between different product groups based on portions of consumer use. We are working along with Industry consortia and shall submit our proposal to FSSAI."
Nestle India told CNBC-TV18, "The FSSAI labelling regulation is still at a draft stage, and industry members have shared comments on the notice issued last year regarding the same.”
Nestle India added that it voluntarily provides monochrome GDA on its food labels which provide guidance of daily energy intake and key defined nutrients on the front of the pack to enable consumers to evaluate a product’s composition in their daily diet.