The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified new regulations that will make mandatory the display of the calorie count of food products on menu cards for restaurant chains and online food aggregators by 2022.

Food service establishments (restaurants) having central licences or outlets at 10 or more locations will need to display the “calorific value in kcal per serving and serving size” of food items on menu cards, booklets or boards. Even e-commerce food business operators will need to get their restaurant partners to display calorie information of food products on their digital platforms.

Consultation with industry stakeholders on the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) First Amendment Regulations 2020 were on for the past two years. FSSAI officials believe this will empower consumers in making the right food choices. Compliance with these regulations before January 1, 2022, will be voluntary, the notification stated on Wednesday.

Industry players, however, said the implementation of these regulations is tough and should remain voluntary. In the past, too, concerns have been raised about legal consequence of making claims through calorie value declarations on menus by industry bodies.

According to the regulation: “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’.”

Potential allergens

In addition, restaurants will need to clearly display information about potential allergens on their menu cards, if food items contain ingredients such as cereals containing gluten, milk and milk products, fish and fish products, groundnuts, treenuts, and soyabeans, among others. The logos of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes will also need to be displayed on menu cards, booklets or menu boards.

However, these regulations will not be applicable on event caterers and food service premises that operate for less than 60 days in a year. At the same time, self-serve condiments that are free of charge, special-order meal items or modified meals, and menu items customised to consumers’ request will not be covered under this regulations.

The regulations also stated that food service establishments should provide other nutritional information, including those related to organic food or ingredients, “provided deviation of 25 per cent may be tolerated in case of nutritional information declaration”.

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice-President, Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), said the implementation of these regulations will not be easy as most restaurants do not serve standardised items, and calorie count for the same dish can vary dramatically depending on the chef, recipes, and ingredients. He said that these regulations come at a time when the hotel and restaurant industry is reeling under challenging times as business has been hit due to the pandemic.

Industry players believe only QSR chains that serve standardised items can implement these regulations. Though the norms for now are voluntary for restaurant chains and e-commerce food aggregators, industry bodies said they will raise concerns with the FSSAI on these regulations.