Indian Sellers Collective, an umbrella body of trade associations and sellers on Wednesday expressed its opposition for the proposed front-of-the-pack labelling  (FOPNL) regulations on grounds that it will adversely impact MSMEs and Indian traditional food manufacturers. 

FSSAI has proposed to bring five star rating system of labelling on the front of the pack of products so consumers have better information about their nutritional profile especially for High Fat Sugar Salt (HFSS) products. This regulation has been a subject of intense debates with industry for years and the authority is now looking to finalise the regulation, which will be voluntary for the first four years.

MSMEs likely to get hit

The industry body claimed that FOPNL will lead to ethnic Indian foods being classified as unhealthy, cause severe loss of business to MSME packaged food manufacturers and sellers and open the floodgates for western packaged food to capture the Indian markets. 

Abhay Raj Mishra, Member & National Coordinator, Indian Sellers Collective,  said,  The proposed FOPNL guidelines in their current form will classify more than 85 per cent of Indian traditional food and snacks unhealthy. The proposed star ratings method is a copy and paste of voluntary guidelines issued in the western countries and not based on any scientific nutritional study of Indian foods.”

Stating that traditional Indian and ethnic food items use time tested recipes , it added that such food products cannot be made with substitutes of salt, fat or sugar  to secure better star ratings unlike western food products made by MNCs. It stated constitution of traditional Indian products like poha, upma, khakda , murukku , bhujiyas and Indian sweets manufactured by local Indian manufacturers cannot be changed to get better star rating as it will change their taste completely.

Dhairyashil Patil, President, All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF), said,  Large distributors and big retail who are thriving through collaborations with MNC and large food companies will continue to sell the reconstituted, western packaged foods in India, as adoption of FONPL will go on to destroy the market for traditional Indian packaged foods. However, the millions of small, independent sellers who largely depend on MSME manufacturers and packaged traditional Indian snacks to earn their livelihoods, will have no recourse, thereby threatening their very survival.” 

The draft notification by FSSAI also provides list of solid foods/liquid foods which will be exempted from FOPNL. The exemption list disregards Indian origin food product categorieand instead pushes western products which are high on sugar, salt and fat, the industry body added. 

Shriram Baxi, General Secretary, Federation of All India Distributors Association (FAIDA) said, “India is a very diverse country having a variety of local cuisines and recipes relevant to local climatic condition and it will be disastrous to judge them by a uniform rating system such as Health Star Rating (HSR). There are rituals, tradition and local tastes associated with Indian food which need to be respected. If FOPL is adopted, traditional Indian food products like dhokla, papad, gulab jamun, barfi, achar and chutney prepared with salt, fat and sugar contents for specific purposes like preservation and texture will also get discredited. Regulators are ignoring that these products are being consumed in India as adjuvants in small portion sizes.”

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