‘Food’ to have a new meaning in India post Maggi debacle

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The Maggi controversy comes as an eye opener for the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The central government has planned to change the definition of food to widen its scope and close loopholes.
The new definition will exclude nutraceuticals, health supplements, functional food and dietary supplements, which will be subject to tougher regulations, a news report in The Economic Times has suggested.
“The earlier definition of food had certain loopholes of which some companies, especially pharma companies, were taking advantage,” a senior official in the ministry of health told the financial daily. “Since regulations are more stringent for pharma products, companies tried to pass off nutraceuticals and health supplements as food, where regulations are slightly relaxed,” he added.
Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, defines food as “any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and includes primary food.” It excludes “drugs and medicinal products, cosmetics, narcotic or psychotropic substances.”
Traditional food, which is described as food that has been and is “traditionally being consumed in the country” will be broadened to “food which is prepared in accordance with the knowledge normally transmitted from one generation to another, conforms to the gastronomic heritage of the country, or local area, or region of the country, with little or no processing or manipulation through addition of preservatives or otherwise and retains the sensory property.”
As said on its website, the govt plans to review and amend the Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011. It sought suggestions and comments from stakeholders by September 24. While a ministry can change rules, an act can be amended only in parliament. Representatives of the food industry, citing procedural lapses in the proposed changes, have alleged that the government wants to “sharpen their teeth and extend their reach beyond the normal to targthe industry.”
“It is not understood as to how and why all of a sudden an unscientific and adhoc, restrictive definition has been flashed to food industry for comments,” Amit Dhanuka, president of the All India Food Processors’ Association told the ET. The industry bodies said the government is trying to avoid a discussion on the matter.

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