According to food regulations, labels on all pre-packaged foods are mandatory and no food product can be sold without proper labelling as specified in the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011. Labels on food products are important for two major reasons
- For the consumer they are important because the label information is used by the consumer to evaluate the food, the ingredients, nutritional value, weight, price etc. before buying the product.
- For the manufacturer it is a way of communicating with the customer and informing them about the quality and the important aspects of the food product
The information on the label is important because it allows consumers to make an informed choice. While it may be easy to understand what has to be mentioned on the label it is also equally important to know what is not permitted on labels. Food Business Operators need to understand that any statement, design or claim on labels that turns out to be false could lead to penalization so they must be sure that the information on labels is correct. Accordingly FSSAI in the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011has also laid down the restrictions on product labels that are to be followed by all food business operators dealing with packaged foods.
Restrictions on product labels
- Labels on the products shall carry no reference to the FSS Act or FSSAI regulations that seek to qualify, modify or contradict it in any manner and which could be misunderstood whether it is directly or by implication or explanation.
- Labels cannot mention that the product has been recommended, prescribed or approved by any person in the medical profession or that the product can be used for medical purposes cannot be suggested on the label.
- Unauthorised use of words like the following are not permitted to be mentioned on the label like.
- Words that show that the food product is an “imitation” or a “substitute” for another product cannot be mentioned on the labels or in any statement attached to the product. Such words are permitted for use only for those foods that are mentioned in the regulations and the words have been permitted for using.
- Any fruit syrup, fruit juice, fruit squash, fruit beverages, cordial, crush or any other fruit products cannot be described according to these names unless these products contain the permitted levels that standardizes them according to regulations.
- The label on food products cannot contain words or pictures that imply or give the wrong impression to the consumer that the product contains the specified amount of fruit. If the fruit is not used in the product then it has to be clearly mentioned on the label ADDED (NAME OF THE FRUIT) FLAVOUR or it will be seen as deceiving or misleading the consumer.
- If a product does not contain the fruit it cannot be described as a fruit product on the label if it contains only fruit flavours even if they are natural or they are natural flavouring substances or nature identical flavouring substances, artificial flavouring substances as single fruit flavour or a combination of fruit flavours. The label in this case also shall mention the product as ADDED (NAME OF FRUIT) FLAVOUR.
- Carbonated water that does not contain fruit juice or fruit pulp cannot have a label that misleads the consumer into believing that this is a fruit product.
- If a fruit or vegetable product is fortified with Vitamin C than it has to contain 40mgms of ascorbic acid per 100 gm. of the product or it cannot be mentioned that it is fortified with Vitamin C.
- The word “PURE” or any other words that imply purity cannot be mentioned on the label if it is an imitation of the product.
Drinking water label prohibitions for packaged and mineral water
- The labels cannot claim that the water has medicinal, preventive, curative or alleviative effects or that it has any other beneficial effects on the health of the consumer.
- The name of any locality, place or village may not be part of the trade name unless the packaged water has physically been collected in the place mentioned.
- No picture, graph or statement can be used on water that can confuse the public or mislead them about the nature, origin, composition or properties of the water in the package.
Restriction on advertisement
No food can be advertised in a manner that contradicts the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 or the rules and regulations written there under or which can mislead the public about the benefits or contents of the food.
Food Business Operators must ensure that all packaged food products are labelled in accordance with regulations and that they provide full information so that consumers can make informed choices. They must also keep in mind that any food product that has labels that promote sales by misleading or making tall claims can be termed as misbranding and misbranding invites heavy penalties.