Through a notification dated 10 October 2016, the FSSAI has made amendments in the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011. After considering the objections and suggestions received from the public, the FSSAI has now notified the regulation to be called the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Fourth Amendment Regulations, 2016 and will come into force on its final publication in the Official Gazette.
The amendment relates to METAL CONTAMINANTS in the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011 under the category ‘Zinc’. FSSAI has now removed Zinc from the list of metal contaminants and therefore all entries related to Zinc in the Regulation now stand omitted. FBOs no longer have to adhere to the previous maximum limit of zinc in foods. The WHO had also proposed that zinc did not require a guideline value but they have considered that drinking water that contained zinc at a level higher than 3mg/litre might not appeal to consumers. Even the Codex Alimentarius prescribes a limit of NMT 5mg/kg for zinc as a metal contaminant only in fruits and vegetables.
Zinc is considered both a metal contaminant and a micronutrient. The requirement of zinc as a micronutrient changes throughout life right from pregnancy to adolescence. The effects on health caused by zinc deficiency are characterized by growth retardation, loss of appetite, and impaired immune function. A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain some functions especially because the body has no specialized zinc storage system. Zinc is important for functions like cellular metabolism, immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, etc.
In India, a large number of the population has zinc deficiency. ICMR has provided a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Zinc for adult as 12mg/day for men and 10mg/day for women (2010). Foods also need to be fortified with zinc to reduce deficiency especially as many Indians are vegetarian and meats are an important source of zinc besides nuts and cereals.
Even though zinc is a natural constituent of plant and animal tissues the risk of zinc toxicity is rare. Excess zinc in foods and beverages can occur from corrosion of galvanised cooking utensils and containers, the environment, zinc production facilities, iron and steel production or coal and fuel combustion and zinc-containing fertilizers and pesticides. The signs of toxicity include- abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.