India’s food safety regulator is discussing with businesses adding “cautionary warnings” that indicate how much-added salt, sugar, and fat there is on the front labelling of packaged foods, along with the suggested rating system. This move will help consumers in making informed decisions.
The Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling (FOPL) rules are being developed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Its draught guidelines, released in September, propose star ratings for food quality among other things.
In an interview with a newspaper, an FSSAI official stated that “there needs to be some cautionary warning to indicate how much (of a particular item) can be consumed in one day.” According to the official, the “cautionary warning” may be similar to the disclaimers on the front of liquor bottles.
He also said, “The talks with the industry regarding this matter are still ongoing. Besides, we’ll work to educate consumers about fat (as well as sugar and salt) levels.”
The regulator has put forward a draft regulation for front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPL) that would assign food items star ratings ranging from one to five to show their healthiness based on the amount of salt, sugar, and fat they contain. However, the proposal has met resistance from packaged food manufacturers, who believe it will negatively impact their industry.
The FSSAI evaluated various labelling options including traffic light signs, nutrition scores, health star ratings, and warning symbols before settling on the star rating system. This decision was made after considering the results of a detailed study on the impact of front-of-pack labelling on consumers, conducted by IIM-Ahmedabad at the request of the FSSAI.
The front-of-pack labelling (FOPL) system, which is currently being discussed in India, has been implemented in Australia and New Zealand. This regulation, which pertains to food packaging, has been a topic of debate for a number of years. However, this is the first time an outside entity, in this case IIM-Ahmedabad, has been brought in to conduct a report on the impact of FOPL on consumers of packaged and processed foods in India.
This issue has been in the consultation stage for several years, with processed and packaged food companies expressing reservations and health activists advocating for the strictest possible standard. While there have been multiple discussions with the stakeholders, there’s been no final decision.