Agri Business

FSSAI overhauls labelling, display norms; makes display of expiry date mandatory

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on December 15, 2020

Packaged food companies will need to mandatorily display use by or expiry date instead of “best before date”, present nutritional information on the principal display panel in bigger font sizes and ensure that name of the food and vegetarian and non-vegetarian classification symbol is on the front of the pack with effect from January 1, 2022.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which has notified the new labelling and display regulations, has for the first time also defined the age of children for the food industry as below 18 years.

Labelling norms have also been set for the e-commerce food business operators and the restaurant industry. However, the earlier proposed key provisions of colour-coded labels to classify food products that are high in fat, salt and sugar and front-of-the-pack labelling are still under the process of being finalised, sources said.

Industry concerns

Though FSSAI has finalised these regulations after a long-drawn consultation process, the industry has raised concerns regarding the definition of children as below 18 years in line with the Juvenile Justice Act. “There is no logic behind defining children’s age in line with the Juvenile Justice Act for the food industry. Companies will need to re-haul their entire marketing strategies if this gets implemented,” a senior industry executive said.

Industry bodies have also raised concerns about the bigger size (height) for numerals and alphabets as prescribed in the norms for the “principal display panel” and said it is not practically feasible to accommodate such big sizes on the label. Companies will need to re-design their packaging and use higher amount of packaging material to meet the new norms,” another senior industry executive pointed out.

“Date of manufacture or packaging” and “Expiry/Use by” shall be declared on the label. However, “Best before” may also be used as optional or additional information,” the regulations stated. Industry players have raised concerns about this provision too stating that it will not be feasible to display expiry date like the pharmaceutical industry instead of the current norm of “best before date”. “When a food product is sold through e-commerce or any other direct selling means, the mandatory requirements of the label as given in these regulations shall be provided to the consumer through appropriate means before sale except ‘batch number/ lot number, best before, use by date, expiry date, date of manufacturing/ packing,” the regulations added.

Calorific values

Restaurants and cafes, having central license or outlets at 10 or more locations, will need to mention the calorific values against food items on menu cards, boards or booklets. “Additionally, reference information on calorie requirements shall also be displayed clearly and prominently as “An average active adult requires 2,000 kcal energy per day, however, calorie needs may vary”, it added. These provisions will also be applicable on e-commerce food business operators.

The regulations also have put certain labelling prohibitions for categories such as edible oils and packaged drinking water. For instance: Packaged water companies cannot make claims concerning medicinal (preventative, alleviative or curative) effects on the labels.

Published on December 15, 2020

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