Ease of doing business for MSMEs: The umbrella body for trade associations and sellers Indian Sellers Collective has opposed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) proposal of Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling (Indian Nutrition Rating) Regulation FOPNL (INR). The representative body on Wednesday said the FOPNL will result in ethnic Indian foods being classified as unhealthy, causing severe loss of business to MSMEs in packaged food manufacturing and sellers. The body said it will also open the floodgates for western packaged food to capture the Indian markets.
FSSAI in September this year released the draft regulations for FOPNL that proposes a star-rating system to convey nutritional information about packaged food products to consumers. The ratings will be displayed on the front labels once regulations are finalised. The packaged items will be given one-to-five-star ratings and therefore ‘good-food’, ‘not-good food’, etc. based on their salt, sugar, and fat content.
Since, traditional Indian cuisine such as bhujiya, dhokla and murukku etc., make use of salt, sugar, and fat, for various scientific and customary reasons, these items will ostensibly be marked ‘unhealthy’ under the proposed mathematical calculation and expression of star-rating system, leading to consumers rejecting them, the body said.
On the other hand, multinational food companies with global reach use substitutes and chemicals will easily modify the nutrient composition of their food products to secure a better health star rating, the collective added.
For example, even though a food item called Rice Crispy Cereal has lots of sugar, it can be made to improve its star rating by the process of reconstitution and adding ingredients like nuts, artificial vitamins and minerals. In comparison, traditional Indian products like poha, upma, khakda manufactured by local Indian manufacturers will not be able to change the constitution, as it will change their taste completely, it explained.
“Large distributors and big retail who are thriving through collaborations with MNC and large food companies will continue to sell the reconstituted, western packaged foods in India, as adoption of FONPL will go on to destroy the market for traditional Indian packaged foods. However, the millions of small, independent sellers who largely depend on MSME manufacturers and packaged traditional Indian snacks to earn their livelihoods, will have no recourse, thereby threatening their very survival,” said Dhairyashil Patil, President at distributors body All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation in a statement.