Proprietary food: FSSAI proposes conditional licensing

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on July 19, 2021

All food products need to adhere to horizontal standards   -  istock.com/bugphai

Says lack of clear guidelines led to “loose compliance requirements ” for manufacturers

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has floated a consultation paper proposing to bring in conditional licensing framework for proprietary food products.

In its consultation paper, the FSSAI said that it has come across instances where food manufacturers apply for licenses for proprietary food products which “closely mimic” products for which standards have been prescribed. According to FSSAI, lack of explicit law or guidelines for proprietary food has led to “loose compliance requirements” for the manufacturers.

Proprietary food products are those products for which no identity standards have been set under the existing regulations but are manufactured using permitted ingredients and additives.

These are usually products with unique formulations that enable companies to offer differentiated products to consumers. In the past few years, the regulator has also been adding new standards in various categories such as beverages — products such as carbonated fruit beverages and energy drinks — which were earlier considered proprietary food.

Nutraceuticals, health supplements, foods for special medical purposes, functional foods or novel foods do not come under the purview of proprietary foods category.

Consultation paper

“The concept of conditional licensing is intended to check the entry of such products into the market where composition of the product is diluted/diverted to avoid compliance with standardised food products and yet allow entry of value-added food products which could not fit into the description of a standardised food product or are altogether different products made out of a mix of standardised food products,” the paper said.

All food products need to adhere to horizontal standards which include norms for packaging, labelling, contaminants, toxins among other. At the same time, food safety regulations consist of vertical standards which mainly focus on identity and compositional standards of specific food products and cover additives, microbiological requirements among others.

However, proprietary food products currently do not need to adhere to any vertical standards and are only tested for horizontal standards of the nearest food category.

“For instance, honey with ashwagandha can be allowed as a proprietary food; however, there is no requirement that the product should comply with the vertical standards of honey as such. Similarly, other products containing mere addition of vitamins and minerals in a standardised food product are presently categorised as proprietary foods,” it said.

The food safety authority is also, therefore, proposing mapping of proprietary food products with their nearest standardised food product category wherever possible.

Published on July 18, 2021

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