The draft regulation proposing front-of-the-pack nutritional labelling (FOPNL) in the form of star ratings by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has evinced mixed reactions. Some players believe the regulations should be tailored to Indian dietary patterns so that they don’t end up being discriminatory to Indian traditional and ethnic food industry. Others said star ratings will emerge as one of the parameters to influence consumers’ choices.

Under the proposed star rating system, food products will be assigned star ratings (1-5 stars) based on their nutritional profiles. More stars will indicate that the food product is better positioned to provide for the daily human need of nutrients. Once finalised, the star ratings will be voluntary in nature for the first four years.

The draft regulations define High Fat, Sugar, Salt (HFSS) food for the first time. It has also defined various thresholds for saturated fat, sodium, total sugar and energy (kcal) per 100 gm or 100 ml based on which products will get star ratings.

‘Discriminatory’

“The draft notification impinges on the natural taste of foods established for centuries and proposes to theoretically interpret foods on product labels with an unscientific rating system. It will be discriminatory to Indian traditional, ethnic and heritage foods, lowering their status in the market and squeezing out lakhs of MSME units,” said Subodh Jindal, former President, All India Food Processors’ Association.

Another senior industry executive pointed out that the norms could promote usage of artificial salt, sugar and fat substitutes moving away from natural sources to garner higher ratings. Concerns have also been raised regarding higher compliance burden and costs of product reformulations for smaller players and start-ups.

Harsh Gursahani, Food Lawyer and Partner at PLR Chambers added that the definition of HFSS food should be tailored to Indian context as dietary preferences vary globally.

Will empower consumers

Meanwhile, Piruz Khambatta, CMD, Rasna Pvt Ltd said that the regulations will empower customers.“The regulations are a step in the right direction to empower consumers to make better choices. At the same time, their choices will also depend on other parameters such as suitability, budgets and consumption occasions such as whether a product is for a treat or for a meal,” he added.

Sources said that industry bodies have begun internal deliberations to evaluate the proposed amendments and will send their suggestions to the food regulator. FSSAI has decided to go with the star rating system for FOPNL even as some public health organisations have been batting for red warning labels.

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