- Recently, experts stated that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)’s star ratings for food products may mislead consumers.
- Experts criticised the nutrition labelling system for food packets recommended by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will:
- Fail to enable consumers to make healthy choices.
- Mislead them about their nutritional value.
- The educational component of a properly constructed warning system is missing in the health star[s] system, which are like a movie rating system and are of no use.
- This system is divorced from science as the presence of high quantities of sugar can’t be offset by the so-called positive ingredients.
- The health star rating system will defeat the seven-year-long fight for safeguarding consumer interests and helping them make informed decisions to exercise their right to healthy choices.
Front of Package Labelling (FoPL) system
- The rating will be the first such in India, a country burdened with lifestyle diseases.
- Aim: Guiding consumers to opt for healthy food.
- It rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from half a star to five stars.
- The decision was based on an Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Ahmedabad study commissioned by the FSSAI.
- The move has upset public health experts who favour the warning label system such as a black-and-white stop symbol used in Chile or the red warning symbol in Israel for each of the three ingredients:
- Sugar and
- Front-of-pack labelling on packaged foods was first recommended by the FSSAI-led committee formed in 2013.
Importance of the labelling system
- Caution for Customers: If the government is serious about the epidemic of obesity and non-communicable diseases, the consumer needs to be cautioned about junk foods through ‘warning’ labels.
- Healthy choice: Warning signs educate consumers about harmful ingredients present in a food product and help them make healthy choices.
- Informed decision: They also give a repetitive educational message so that even for domestic cooking or buying street food that warning bell goes off.
- Easy to Understand: The display of star ratings was recommended by a study conducted by IIM Ahmedabad to make it easier for customers to understand. The system will be similar to the one that is being used by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency for assessing the energy efficiency in electrical devices.
- Educate consumers: It will educate consumers about the nutrition profile of the food they are consuming.
- The IIM-Ahmedabad based study on which FSSAI had based its decision was flawed in “design and interpretation” and should not form the basis of policy making.
- So, there is a need to “insulate” policy making from the influence of the food industry.
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)
- Established under Food Safety and Standards, 2006, the FSSAI handles food-related issues including ensuring the safe availability of food for human consumption.
- It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that is responsible for promoting and protecting public health through various regulations and supervisions of food safety.
FSSAI Major Initiatives
- Heart Attack Rewind: It is aimed to support FSSAI’s target of eliminating trans fat in India by the year 2022.
- Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO): To enable the collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel.
- FSSAI-CHIFSS: It is collaboration between FSSAI and CII-HUL Initiative on Food Safety Sciences to promote collaborations between Industry, Scientific Community, Academia for food safety.
- Swasth Bharat Yatra: It is a Pan-India cycle movement called ‘Eat Right India’ aimed to create consumer awareness about eating safe and nutritious food.
- The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an international food standards body established jointly by the food and agriculture organisation (FAO) and the world health Organisation (WHO).