Food safety is a serious public health concern for a long time in our country. Adulteration and food scandals are continually plaguing India for more than a decade. The crisis of food safety and health needs to be regulated and controlled by government. This will only be possible with a clear and consistent food regulatory policy, and their strict implementation.
What is FSSAI?
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous body established in 2011 under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. The food regulator, FSSAI, is a larger unified certification covering several older laws under it like Food Adulteration Act 1954, Vegetable Oil Products Order 1947, Fruit Products Order 1955, Meat Products Order 1973, and Milk Products Order 1992. So, if you are involved in the business of manufacturing, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food, you need to have a FSSAI certification.
The Role of FSSAI:
FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety and food standards. The FSSAI license also covers the quality, manufacture, packaging, safety, and sale of all food. This is all to ensure the health and safety of the people consuming these food products. This also ensures a reduction in the cases of food adulteration or poor quality.
Mandatory “mark” certifications related to the food industry in India
Some of the mandatory “mark” certifications in India for various products are:
- FPO – for processed food products
- AGMARK – for agricultural produce
- ECOMARK certification – for environmentally preferable consumer products
- India Organic – for organically farmed food
- Eco-Label – for eco-friendly products
- Ayush Mark – for herbal products
FSSAI Draft Regulation for Organic Foods:
The FSSAI recently declared a draft regulation “Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulation, 2017” on 31 March 2017. The regulation focuses on organic foods to ensure safety across the value chain through proper certification of such products.
Some light on Organic Foods:
With the increasing consumer awareness about health and the increasing levels of pesticides in food, more and more people are willing to procure organic food. While a little expensive, there is also no assurance on the quality of organic foods.
“Organic” food includes agricultural products like fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat, which are:
- grown without the use of any chemicals
- encourages soil and water conservation
- is processed without additives
Some of the popular organic food items are organic tea, organic wine, organic coffee, organic beef, organic meat, organic eggs, organic honey, organic milk, organic vegetables, organic rice, organic fruits, organic corn, organic essential oils, organic herbs, organic olive oil and organic coconut oil.
Organic Food Vs Inorganic Food
It is a common belief that ‘Organic Food’ is healthier than ‘Inorganic Food.’ With increasing health problems arising due to excess quantity of pesticides and other chemicals in foods, the government, as well as the public, is trying to shift from inorganic to organic foods for safeguarding life.
New research point towards the fact that organic cereals, fruit, and vegetables have more antioxidants or polyphenolics when compared with the produce grown inorganically. There is a lower incidence of detectable pesticide residue in organic foods as compared to inorganic foods where it is four times higher. Organic crops also have lower concentrations of cadmium and nitrogen, excess levels of which are hazardous to one’s health.
Forecast regarding the potential market for organic food in India
TechSci Research recently published a report by research on the potential market for organic food in India. The report was published under the heading “India Organic Food Market By Product Type, Competition Forecast, and Opportunities, 2011 – 2021”.
As per this report, the organic food market in the country is expected to grow by 25 percent more CAGR during 2016–2021, because of the changing patterns of food consumption and increasing cases of contamination of farm produce with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, higher investments in organic food market, and increasing use of bio fertilizers.
Organic pulses and food grains dominate the Indian organic food market.
FSSAI proposition on Organic Food Labelling and Certification:
As per the latest proposition, no person shall indulge in manufacturing, packing, selling, offering for sale, marketing or otherwise distributing or importing any organic foods unless they ensure compliance with the stipulations laid down by these regulations. Also, any food sold as ‘Organic Food’ shall comply with any one of these:
- NPOP (National Program for Organic Production)
- PGS-India (Participatory Guarantee Systems)
- Any other standards or system as notified by the Food Authority from time to time
FSSAI Regulations for Packaging and Labelling:
As per the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011, the food articles being packaged need to be well-labelled. The label must have the following information:
- The name of the food
- List of ingredients
- Nutritional information
- Declaration regarding food additives
- Declaration regarding vegetarian or non-vegetarian
- Name and complete address of the packer or manufacturer
- Net quantity
- Tractability details like Lot No. /Code No. /Batch No.
- Date of manufacture or packing
- Country of origin for imported food
- Best Before and Use by Date
- Instructions for use
FSSAI on the Imports and Reciprocity Policy:
With respect to the import of organic food products to India, it was proposed that re-certification will not be required in cases where multilateral or bilateral agreement is provided depending on the uniformity of standards between the Organic Standards of the respective exporting countries and National Programmer for Organic Production. They must comply with the Rules & Regulation and provision of the Act.
FSSAI and APEDA on Export:
FSSAI is working on new norms for organic food. In the meantime, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) will certify foods meant for export. Thus, exporters will need APEDA’s approval, but in the absence of norms from FSSAI, APEDA’s certificate would help organic food enter foreign territory.
We all look forward with hope for successful implement of FSSAI regulations towards the quality and safety of food.