Union Food Processing Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal has taken up the issue of import consignments lying at various ports and airports with the Health Minister. The apex food authority, FSSAI, that handles food related issues, works under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
Badal denied the fact that she wanted the FSSAI to work conjointly with the Health Ministry and the Food Processing Industry. However, she was emphatic about the fact that she would like the FSSAI to be less arbitrary, more transparent and a little more fluid in its approach so that the stringent regulations do not harm the growth of the food processing industry. She agreed that while food safety standards need to be maintained; regulations should not discourage food importers as that could lead to stagnation in the industry.
Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 that came into effect in 2011, does not allow stickers to be pasted on imported food products. Imported packaged food labels must list all ingredients used in the product, along with nutritional values in English. The names of the manufacturer, address and the country of origin must be displayed on the product in the prescribed format.
The Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 is applicable to all food products including those that are imported into India. Here regulations do not allow sale of chocolates that contain vegetable fat. As per FSS Act, Rules & Regulations, ‘Chocolate’ is defined as a homogeneous product, obtained through an adequate process of manufacture from a mixture of one or more ingredients like cocoa beans, cocoa nib, cocoa mass, cocoa press cake and cocoa dust (cocoa fines/powder) including fat reduced cocoa powder. Product may be with or without additions of sugars, cocoa butter, milk solids including milk fat. However, the chocolates shall not contain any vegetable fat other than cocoa butter.
These labelling regulations are proving to be detrimental to the food processing industry as imported food items worth crores have not been given the green signal by FSSAI due to incorrect labelling. With the festival season on the threshold, food importers are concerned about the losses they might suffer as the imports continue to remain at custom warehouses. Moreover, some importers have paid in advance for these food imports.
Roughly, between 400 to 500 containers of food ingredients like canola oil, olive oil and olives, chocolates, liquor, seafood, herbs and other ingredients required by the catering and food industry have not been cleared by the FSSAI.
Badal has taken up all the issues the food processing industry is facing, with the Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan. The matter has now been brought to the notice of the PMO.