Through a notification dated 15 October the FSSAI has issued clarification and explanation for interpreting Appendix-A of Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additive) Regulations as amended in 2016. The FSSAI has reiterated that the food additives in India are governed by Food Safety Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 as amended on 5 September, 2016.
A food additive is defined in the Food Safety and Standards Act of India 2006 as below
“food additive” means any substance not normally consumed as a food by itself or used as a typical ingredient of the food, whether or not it has nutritive value, the international addition of which to food for technological (including organoleptic) purpose in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, packaging, transport or holding such food results, or may be reasonably expected to result (directly or indirectly) in it or its by-products becoming a component of or otherwise affecting the characteristics of such food but does not include “contaminants” or substances added to food for maintaining or improving nutritional qualities.
The existing Foods Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, which is largely aligned to the General Standards for Food Additives (GSFA) of Codex Alimentarius categorises all the food in India into 15 categories. These categories are further subdivided into sub-categories till the fourth level of sub-categorisation. For examples all the fats, oils and their products in the regulations are categorised as under:
Fats, Oils and fat emulsions
Fats and oils essentially free from water
Butteroil, anhydrous milk fat, ghee
Vegetable Oils and Fats
Lard, tallow, fish oil and other animal fats
Fat emulsion mainly of type water in oil
Fat spread, dairy as spreads and blended spreads
Fat emulsions mainly of type oil in water, including mixed and/or flavoured products based on fat emulsions
Fat based desserts excluding dairy based dessert products
The food category system in the above regulations is based on certain principles which are as follows:
- The food category system is hierarchical, meaning that when an additive is recognised for use in general category (marked as I in the above table) it is recognised for use in all its sub-categories (marked as II, III, IV in the above table) unless otherwise stated.
- Similarly, when an additive is recognised for use in a sub-category, its used is recognised in any further sub-categorisation or individual foodstuffs mentioned in the sub-category
To illustrate further, in the above example of “Fat, Oils and Fat emulsions”, any additives that allowed in the general category, of “Fat, Oils and Fat Emulsions,”(marked as I in the table) is automatically allowed in all sub-categories mentioned in II, III and IV. Similarly, any additive that is allowed in 2.1 (fats and Oils essentially free from water) is automatically allowed in all sub-categories mentioned under category marker III, which is 2.1.1- Butter oil, anhydrous milk fat, ghee, 2.1.2 Vegetable oils and fats and 2.1.3 Lard tallow oils and animal fats.
Similarly, if any food category has a sub-category at level IV then this category can have additives that are mentioned in any higher category of that sub-category. However, additives will not be allowed in sub-categories located at the same level interchangeably, unless said additives are mentioned separately in both the sub-categories. For example, an additive 2.2.2 above (Fat Spreads, dairy as spreads and blended spreads) will not be allowed in 2.2.1 (butter) unless it has been mentioned in both categories separately.
The FSSAI has requested all Food Safety Commissioners in all the States and UTs to issue instructions to Designated Officers and Food Safety Officers pertaining to these clarifications. They need to familiarise themselves with these regulations to ensure that the food and beverages in the market are monitored as per the clarifications given above.