Food safety regulator tightens screws, fixes new lead levels



FSSAI adds more food categories; draft proposals put out for comments

Companies that sell canned fruits and vegetables or packaged pulses, wheat, and meat products may find the going tough, if a recent draft put out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) becomes a reality.

The proposed draft has recommended stringent regulations for permissible levels of metal contaminants in amendments to the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations 2011. It has also expanded the ‘specified’ categories of items to 70-80 from the existing 30-40 by shifting products from ‘non-specified’ to it.

FSSAI has taken a leaf from the European Union’s food safety regulations book by proposing new permissible lead limits ranging from 0.05 to 0.1 ppm. The existing permissible limit for ‘non-specified’ items is at 2.5 ppm. Instant noodles still remain out of purview.

It has sought public comments on its draft by August 24.

Amit Khurana, Head of Food Safety Programme at the Centre for Science and Environment, said, “This is a good move by the food regulator. Permissible levels for metal contaminants for a lot of the categories had not been specified and this brings clarity with the addition of new categories.”

Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs, said if the proposed draft becomes a reality then “the failure rate in terms of adherence to these norms by companies is expected to go up, also more testing of products will be required by the companies.”

He said, though a good move, it will have to be seen in the context of the metal contaminants present in the country’s groundwater or soil.

Conflicting limits

The draft has the potential to confuse companies, particularly fruit juice manufacturers and the meat industry. For instance, the FSS Regulations already contain a category titled ‘fruit and vegetable juice’ which has a permissible lead limit of 1 ppm, and now the draft proposes 0.05 ppm. Considering the draft explicitly mentions that the amendments are an addition to the original regulations, what then is the permissible upper limit?

“While revising standards, the previous regulations should have been kept in mind. The exact statement in the draft is that along with the existing entries, the new categories are to be inserted. Is there a change in the original permissible limit for the fruit juice category then?” said Kunal Kishore, Partner, Juggernaut Legal & Financial Solutions, a food safety law expert.

He however, believed that the step to tighten heavy metal content norms was a progressive one which will now force industry to take notice and abide by the book. “What the FSSAI is attempting to do is a positive thing. Slowly but surely more items will be added to the regulations and benefit consumers,” said Kishore.

Published on July 07, 2015
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like

Recommended for you