Monday, December 12, 2011


A recent news item from Europe may make every Indian proud of the country though such a pride may not last long if an introspection is made regarding the ground reality. This is with reference to the front of the label nutrition labeling which is being made mandatory in Europe beginning December 13, 2016, giving the industry a "comfortable" warm up period of 5 years! Compare this with the Indian food regulations currently in vogue under which all packed food products are required to print the nutrition content, legally enforceable. As with all the laws that are on statute books, food laws are not strictly enforced with many manufacturers getting away without following the rule in letter and spirit. Even if such information is given there is no guarantee that they really represent that of the contents inside the pack! The big difference is that the EU laws have teeth while Indian laws are strong only on paper! Here is a take on this issue.    

"Food companies have five years to implement the mandatory nutrition labeling rules of the European Union's Food Information to Consumers Regulation published today, said international policy experts EAS. Xavier Lavigne, Food Law Manager at EAS, says that the clock starts ticking towards the five-year deadline for nutrition labeling requirements from 20 days after publication, therefore from Dec. 13, 2011. The regulation requires a mandatory declaration on the label of the so-called 'Big 7'—energy, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt—by Dec. 13, 2016. It also requires these to be expressed per 100g/100ml and, where appropriate, per portion.
While most aspects of the regulation become applicable on Dec. 13, 2014, companies have been given an extended transition period until Dec. 13, 2016 to get in line with nutrition labeling requirements".

On introspection one can only wonder what else the consumer can expect from a paper tiger like FSSAI rooted at Delhi while food quality enforcement is a state subject. With archaic analytical facilities at the state public health laboratories and acute shortage of inspectors and chemists to perform the mandated tasks, it is a free for all situation that exists in most states and if India is the Capital of adulterated and sub-quality foods in the world, thanks are due to the bureaucrats sitting at the cozy offices in FSSAI. Corruption being a national past time, any hope that the system will improve may be misplaced. Like the Citizen Journalist movement that is taking shape in the country, there may have to be a "Citizen Food Monitor" movement which can bring some relief to the hapless consumer caught between the inflation and unsafe foods!


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