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Restaurants may soon have to declare calorie counts on their menu cards

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Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is looking to amend the packaging and labelling regulations to get restaurant chains to declare calorie counts of all the dishes served at their outlets on the menu cards. It also intends to bring online food delivery platforms and food aggregators under the ambit of these regulations.

The food safety authority has been engaging with the restaurant industry on this proposal for over a year and had earlier urged restaurant companies to start printing calorie counts on their menu cards voluntarily. Now, the draft regulations that propose to make it mandatory for restaurant chains has evinced mixed reactions from the industry.

According to FSSAI’s draft regulations, restaurants having a central licence or having outlets at 10 or more locations will be required to “display the calorific value of each of the food items sold by them on their menu cards or boards.” In addition, restaurants chains will need to display information regarding allergens in a food item, warning or declaration regarding gluten content, usage of organic food or ingredients, among others.

“E-commerce food business operators shall also provide this information in the menu linked with each food service establishment on their platform, where applicable,” the draft regulation stated. However, the provisions will not be applicable on catering businesses that operate for less than 60 days in a year, self-served condiments or special-order items.

Garish Oberoi, President, Federation of Hotels & Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI), said, “We have been engaging with FSSAI on this matter as well as sensitising our members regarding this proposal. However, implementing these regulations will not be easy as restaurants do not serve standardised items and calorie count for the same dish could vary dramatically due to various factors such as recipes and ingredients. In the meantime, our members are looking to putting healthy items on their menus as well as making a collaborative effort to put together some data on calorie counts of some of the recipes.”

Sources said the restaurant industry is particularly concerned about the legal consequences of making claims through calorie value declarations on their menus as well various aspects regarding testing of such claims.

Prakul Kumar, Secretary General, National Restaurant Association of India, said, “We believe initially it will be easier for larger players who have the necessary infrastructure to implement these regulations and smaller players may require more time. At the same time, the industry will need more information and clarity on various other nuances of the draft regulations.”

Once these regulations get implemented, restaurants will also need to make nutritional information about their food items available to consumers through their website or through booklets.

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