The latest findings of a laboratory analysis of some popular processed foods by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) show how consumers could be ingesting much larger amounts of salt and fat than yet-to-be-notified thresholds set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The CSE’s Environment Monitoring Laboratory (EML) tested 33 brands of junk food, including 14 samples of chips, namkeen (Indian savouries), instant noodles and instant soup and 19 samples of burgers, fries, fried chicken, pizza, sandwich and wraps.
This comes against the backdrop of the six-year-long delay in notification of the and (Packaging and ) by the food safety regulator. While FSSAI was supposed to come up with draft regulations in 2013, it was only able to publish a ‘final’ draft in 2018, which was then revised and put up again in 2019 for feedback from the public. The 2019 draft was finalised by an expert committee headed by B Sesikeran, who is a trustee of the International Life Sciences Institute set up by a former Coca-Cola executive and is financed by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone and other processed food giants.
While CSE claims that the 2019 draft diluted the provisions of the 2018 draft, the 2019 draft regulations provide for labelling of food based on thresholds. These thresholds prescribe the “allowable” limit of fat and salt in 100g or ml of packaged food. Above this threshold, the food has to be labelled red and the red marking carried on the packaging. Against this threshold, CSE found all the food stuff tested need to be marked ‘red’, and claims this is the reason the food industry is resisting the notification of the labelling and packaging regulations.
“Consumers have the right to know what is contained in the package. But our food regulator, the FSSAI, is dragging its feet and has not notified its own draft labelling regulation. This is clearly because of pressure from the powerful food industry,” Sunita Narain, director-general of CSE, said in a release.
The product will have to be marked ‘red’ if the energy provided by the added sugar content is more than 10% of the total energy provided by 100 g of the product. The 2019 draft finalised by the Sesikeran committee, CSE claims, has diluted the standard for ‘added sugar’, a nutrient-head it introduces, by setting the 2018 threshold for total sugar (50 g/day) as the threshold for added sugar. The CSE laboratory also found that most brands were under-reporting the transfats content of their product.