Even before the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has resolved its ongoing dispute with Nestle India over Maggi Noodles, the food regulator now seems to have irked other manufacturers.

FSSAI’s recent statement that it will not continue with the product approval procedure any longer, has raised the question of what happens to products for which approvals were in the pipeline or earlier denied.

“We expect more clarity from the FSSAI on the status of pending and future product approvals. For now, the industry has come to a standstill as far as launches are concerned,” said Amit Dhanuka, President, All India Food Processors’ Association.

The FSSAI move of August 26 was following the Supreme Court (SC) decision of August 19 upholding a Bombay High Court order that had quashed the product approval advisory issued by it in 2013.

Sources in the food industry felt the process of amending regulations – which is what the regulator intends to do as per the notification – could take between six months and a year. Without an interim measure, it could impact business for companies looking to launch new products, particularly ahead of the festival season.

Lawyers familiar with food safety, however, said companies were free to go ahead with launches with the approvals issue out of the way.

“Product approval as a concept does not exist in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, or the 2011 regulations. One can expect more product launches now with the latest development,” said Dheeraj Nair, Partner, J. Sagar Associates.

“The Act is structured for a self-regulation process and is self-sufficient in that it puts the onus on the food business operator to conduct its business the right way failing which the regulator is empowered to take action against it,” he added.

Between March and June this year, the FSSAI received 4,357 manual applications, of which 348 were pending approval, while 551 were rejected. While 1,047 no objection certificates were issued, 2,094 were closed for being non-responsive.

“It’s not clear what happens to these approvals and clarity is needed till it becomes a regulation. The industry is in limbo and another round of clarification is required from the regulator,” said Ashwin Bhadri, CEO, Equinox Labs.

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