The Maggi controversy has made consumers more watchful about manufacturers’ claims, in turn making companies more cautious.

From getting fresh tests and audits at food labs to ensuring raw material quality and proactively communicating with consumers on the veracity of their labels, packaged food companies are pulling out all stops to convince buyers of their authenticity.

Companies are also ensuring that their suppliers are compliant with food safety norms and say they would rather be out of stock than be given substandard products.

Equinox Labs CEO Ashwin Bhadri said: “In the past two weeks alone, we have seen a huge increase in the number of enquiries from food companies on testing, audits, and compliance with food regulatory norms. Such queries have gone up by nearly six times from earlier (before the Maggi controversy).”

He said companies are looking at fresh tests and audits to ensure that they are compliant with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) norms.

“Companies and FSSAI need to ensure the mechanisms in food safety are robust. Companies need to know that testing is just one aspect of food safety, and they also need to ensure audits are done across products and batches,” he added.

Food safety experts say the Maggi case has put the spotlight on the fact that the FSSAI is free to interpret the regulations and companies need to be clear on the same.

Aseem Soni, Director, Consumer Pack Vertical, Cargill India, said: “A lot of crude mustard oil available is not of the best quality. In our brand Nature Fresh, we are ensuring that we commence our quality checks from the mustard seeds.

“If we don’t get quality seeds, we don’t process, don’t produce and prefer to be out-of-stock rather than supply a suboptimal product.” In the long term the brand can only gain consumers if the quality is consistently delightful, he said. Another senior executive with a company that supplies raw materials to packaged food companies and restaurants, including MNCs, said they are becoming more cautious about sourcing raw materials.

More queries

Companies, cognizant of the fact that consumers are now increasingly aware, have stepped up communication about their product safety.

Said Vikram Agarwal, Director of Greendot Health Foods Ltd: “We are getting a lot more queries from consumers about our products. For example, consumers are asking us about labels we write on our Cornitos (nachos crisps) packs, such as zero transfat and zero cholesterol, and what it means and how are we saying that. Consumers are becoming more vigilant and this will help the overall packaged food industry.”