The packaged food segment may have to disclose more and be extra careful in its advertisements, as the Centre is likely to step up vigil following the Maggi controversy.

The Centre’s petition to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has drawn attention to misleading advertising, labelling and packaging.

Alleging that Nestle India was selling Maggi Oats Noodles without product approvals, a senior government official said: “The company marketed a product as a healthy product which was not even approved.

“It was the duty of the company as a manufacturer to inform its consumers that it is still awaiting approval from the regulator, as the FSSAI logo on the packs gave the impression that the product was approved. A disclaimer could have been used.”

No justification

Besides, officials said, Nestle has also been accused of using misleading marketing and branding, in stating that its instant noodles are healthy. The argument that other (rival) products do the same will not “justify false branding”, they pointed out.

The officials also said Nestle could have told consumers that there is a possibility that its noodles contained MSG, and that the “No Added MSG” was misleading. “So firstly the company not only withheld information, it also omitted mentioning all the ingredients present,” an official added.

Since the Maggi controversy, consumer activists and food safety experts have pointed to the paucity of quality checks on the packaged food industry.

Amit Khurana, head of food safety at the Centre for Science and Environment, had earlier told BusinessLine that there is a “need to fix our standards such as on labelling of salt, sugar and fats which are known to be high in ultra-processed packaged foods.”

“The amount of salt should be mentioned,” he had said. “We should now move towards ‘nutrition facts’ labelling and ‘front-of-pack’ labelling to inform consumer about how much the amount of ingredient present contributes to the recommended daily intake.”

Food safety experts believe there are gaps in the norms followed by some packaged food industry players, especially when it comes to nutritional information and claims made on the packaging.

Equinox Labs CEO Ashwin Bhadri said: “Often some packaged food businesses — especially the smaller ones — tend to put misleading nutritional information as well as product shelf life on their packs. These are just copied from rival products and not validated. This is a grave concern. Companies need to ensure their nutritional information, best before date and other such information is validated.”

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