According to a report by the Times of India, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has said that Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 should be stringent and effective. A draft had been formed and sent in April for comments by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and it includes initiating front-of-pack labelling and salt labelling as well.
CSE Recommends Major Changes
“A strict labelling law is very important to combat obesity and non-communicable diseases plaguing our country. Though this draft Regulation is a good beginning, it also has major gaps that need to be plugged to make it effective,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE to the Times of India. The CSE believes it to be a flaw that there is no provision in the draft for the labelling of sugar and dietary fibre.
“Public health and nutrition experts recommend that it is best to avoid added sugar in food items. It can be measured and controlled and therefore, must be labelled. Also, dietary fibre is a key beneficial component of our diet and must also be labelled. This will help consumers make informed and healthy food choices,” said Amit Khurana, programme director, food safety and toxins unit, CSE told the Times of India.
Strong Focus On Health
Keeping their focus on kids, the regulations suggested by CSE says that any food products high in fat, sugar or salt should not have children-focused advertisements. “Children are key consumers of HFSS food items and the burden of childhood obesity is rising. The FSSAI needs to adopt a detailed framework to regulate advertisement of HFSS foods. Celebrities should not be allowed to endorse them and there should be no advertisement of certain food categories such as soft drinks. Broadcasting regulations should be developed to limit the exposure of children to food advertisements during prime time programmes,” said Sonam Taneja, programme manager, food safety and toxins unit, CSE told the publication.
Another impactful suggestion made by the CSE is that nutritional information per serving should be provided for food products. This is so that the consumers know how much the product is contributing to their salt, sugar or fat intake. “Determination of serving sizes has been left to the industry — this is a big loophole. We have seen that the food industry often claims very small serving sizes which are far from the reality and manipulates food labels. Serving sizes must be set by the FSSAI based on how much is customarily consumed by people in the Indian scenario,” said Bhushan while speaking with the Times of India.
Labelling GM Food
The CSE has also put an emphasis on the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food. The regulator has already faced flak as GM food is being sold in India through imports and even otherwise. The CSE has thus suggested regulating GM food in the country by having a stringent rule for the exemption of GM labelling. “The FSSAI has a crucial role in ensuring food safety and a strong labelling regulation is a must to fulfil this mandate,” added Bhushan.