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Major FSSAI upgrade expected: ‘Safe’ ingredients exemption


Proposed rule may require product approval only if a new ingredient or additive is introduced.

By introducing a globally accepted norm, the FSSAI may do away with product approvals if the ingredients used have already been cleared or are deemed safe.

The new rules are being prepared for product approvals after an earlier advisory, which put it at loggerheads with the industry, was quashed by the Supreme Court for not having legal standing.

“We are in the process of formulating regulations for product approval process. We thought we could take this opportunity to review the procedure rather than just convert the advisory into regulation,“ said a senior FSSAI officer.

The FSSAI’s proposed regulation may require product approval only if a new ingredient or additive is introduced, a practice followed in several developed nations. The regulator has uploaded a list of permitted food additives and food items in which they can be used and the recommended maximum level.

Read: FSSAI’s complete list of additives

“The move to harmonise our system with the global one is a good idea & this proposal will go a long way in sorting some issues out. Any half-baked moves will only result in us being in the same mess as we currently are & it is imperative the authorities make complete changes & not piece meal as it will only result in us trying to fit a square into a triangle,” said Dev Lall, managing director, Bakers Circle.

However full clarity is sought on the following:

  1. Will the existing system of product approval still remain in place for any new ingredient especially if it has been in the global market place for over 10 years? Our current list of approved ingredients is  minuscule & therefore an incomplete policy will do more harm.
  2. Will the current product definitions be enhanced & changed to be in line with global norms? If not, then while an ingredient might be permitted it might not be allowed in a category. Case in point Red Velvet cake as colours are not permitted in cake as per Indian definition.

The product approval process was sought in through a May 2013 advisory brought in through a May 2013 advisory which had been challenged by the Maharashtra-based Vital Nutraceuticals and the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association and deemed illegal by the Bombay High Court. The authority appealed in the Supreme Court, which questioned the legal standing of the process as it was an advisory rather than a regulation.

The food processing industry had alleged that the product approval system had paved the way for an ‘inspector raj’ and it also drew flak from food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who criticised the effects of regulatory overreach after the FSSAI imposed a nationwide ban on Nestle’s popular instant noodle brand, Maggi, in June.

While the FSSAI discontinued the process after the court’s ruling, it uploaded a circular on its website on August 26, which said the product approval process will be brought back as regulation. “Every endeavour will be made to expedite the regulations governing section 22 products,” the circular said.

The government recently appointed senior IAS officer Pawan Kumar Agarwal as the chief executive officer of the FSSAI in place of Yudhvir Singh Malik, who was behind the ban on Maggi.

Source: NRAI/Economic Times

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