Ignores Task Force report; FSSAI to frame Product Approval norms again

Food Product Approval

Food Product Approval

The Task Force constituted by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) headed by Dr V Prakash to review the process of Product Approval had recommended that proprietary food products using approved ingredients and additives should not require Product Approval. While FSSAI is silent about this Task Force report, it wants to draft new regulations on Product Approval for which it has recently released a notification seeking legal assistance.

The Task Force gave its report in April this year, much before Supreme Court upheld Bombay High Court order quashing the Product Approval advisory. After that, FSSAI had sought help from a legal consultant to frame policy for the same Product Approval process while it had withheld the draft regulations framed by the Task Force.

Further it was observed by the Task Force that it was a basic agreed position that approval should be for new or novel ingredients or technology and not for product formulations or brands.

The Task Force commented, “While going through the document (it framed) and from the discussions held in the Task Force meetings, there appears to be a lack of clarity on the way proprietary foods (non-standardised) are regulated currently.”

The reason was that there were already laws and regulations that were governing proprietary food. It further commented, “We would like to reiterate that proprietary foods are already regulated by various horizontal regulations of FSSAI and hence proprietary food do not require any recipe by recipe approval. Like standardised products, all proprietary foods also need to comply to the relevant provisions laid down in the following Food Safety and Standards Rules and Regulations, a) The Food Safety and Standards Rules, b) The Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, c) The Food Safety and Standards (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, d) The Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations, e) The Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sampling Analysis) Regulations, f) The Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations. Hence what require approval are only those ingredients /additives and technologies which are not permitted yet or are not mentioned in the regulations and may not be regulated adequately.”

The issue of Product Approval in recent times has been a serious bone of contention between the apex food regulator FSSAI and the food industry. The issue has taken its toll on both sides, ban on Nestle’s Maggi, and transfer of FSSAI’s CEO YS Malik to NITI Aayog.

FSSAI constituted a Task Force on September 8, 2014, and October 17, 2014, comprising 17 members representing different sectors such as food industry, consumer organisations, scientific experts and food safety commissioners of states to look into the present process of Product Approval and for framing draft regulations on the Food Product Approval System in FSSAI.

Industry insiders say that the whole process of Product Approval is actually retrograde in nature and is not prevalent in any other reputed/comparable standard in any country. The reasons for all this controversy is lack of understanding of ground realities specially in regard to diversity of food in our country specially traditional and ethnic food with long history of safe use.