In a bid to allow consumers to correctly, quickly and easily identify products that contain excessive amount of sugars, fats, and sodium, consumer organisations from across the country unanimously adopted an eight point Charter of Demands in the National Consumer Convention (NCC) held in New Delhi recently. The Charter will be submitted to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
National Consumer Convention (NCC) was organised by Consumer Protection Association (CPA), Agartala in partnership with Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) of India, an apex body of consumer organisations in the country. CUTS facilitated a session on FoPL. Around 30 consumer organisations from 20 states attended the convention.
This charter highlights immediate steps to be taken for the earliest notification of Front of Package Labeling (FoPL) regulation that has been long pending. It also specifically demanded to adopt simple, interpretive ‘high in’ style warning labels that has been established as the most reliable FoPL format that improves public health and aids all consumers regardless of their age, literacy proficiency or socio-economic strata to make healthier choices.
The charter was presented by George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS International and was released by Prasanta Kumar Panda, Chairman, Consumer Coordination Council (CCC), an apex body of consumer organisations in the country in the presence of Amrit Lal Saha, President, Consumer Protection Association, and former president, CCC, Agartala (Tripura) and Chair Prof. Suresh Mishra, CCS, IIPA, New Delhi.
In the national convention around 100 representatives of 30 leading consumer organisations of the country across the states from Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Odissa, West Bengal, Delhi, Haryana and others participated.
The Charter also highlights the need to reduce the risk for diet related non communicable diseases (NCDs), with a format based on nutrient profile model with scientific threshold limits and WHO SEARO Model.
George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS International, while making a presentation on FoPL during the National Consumer Convention, said that Right to Information and Right to Choose are fundamental consumer rights. FoPL is a tool which provides consumers information and alert about unhealthy ingredients, and help to choose healthy products. The regulators in India need to cautiously move forward but at a more rapid phase while choosing an ideal label for packaged food products for consumers in India. FSSAI have already spent number of years discussing and consulting stakeholders, it is high time to move fast without any further delay and come out with a strong regulation.
He further informed that most of the countries have started to reap the benefits from positive consumer behaviour since the implementation of the FoPL. It has helped those governments to save money from direct and indirect healthcare costs. At the same time, he acknowledged that no single action will change the consumer’s preference for unhealthy diets and the growing NCDs crisis in the country, multiple actions needs to be taken by the government in close cooperation with the stakeholders. A regulation for a strong, simple, mandatory FoPL without any further delay is a must.
In India, FoPL was first recommended in 2014 by an expert committee constituted by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2013. After years of consultations, in May 2018, FSSAI published a draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018. In 2019, FSSAI issued draft notification Food Safety Standards (Labelling and Display), Regulations, 2019. In 2019 December, FSSAI delinked FoPL from general labelling regulations. Thus, the country is yet to bring in some regulation regarding FoPL, though some active discussions are happening over time.