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Specify contaminant level in water used for food, says FSSAI expert panel
Monday, 16 April, 2012, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Irum Khan, Mumbai
An expert committee on water constituted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has proposed that standards should specify the “maximum contaminant level acceptable for the water as an ingredient of food” and the adjacent column of “permissible limit” in the absence of “alternate source” to be deleted.

Also, with regard to the pesticide residues it has been suggested to prescribe limit of total pesticide residue of 0.0005 mg/lt as prescribed in packaged drinking water standards.

As per the FSS (licensing and registration of food business operators) Regulations, 2011, it is mandatory to provide analyst’s report of water to be used as an ingredient of food while applying for license to state/ Central licensing authority.

The expert group under the chairmanship of then CEO VN Gaur deliberated upon the Standards for Water used in Food during its manufacture, preparation or treatment.

It opined that the standards of water were drafted for the food business operators who had commercial interest and therefore it was their responsibility to source water from appropriate places and maintain the desired quality of the water.

In Table 2.2 of the draft the general parameters concerning substances undesirable in excessive amounts the free residual chlorine mg/l max are given. It was suggested to be modified to 0.2 mg.

The expert group also suggested corrections to be made to the table 2.6 of the draft. Accordingly, for the bacteriological quality of water, the draft will now mention as below:

a. Enteric Viruses (Viz. Rota) – Shall not be detectable in any 100 ml sample

b. Protozoa (Viz. Entamoeba, Giardia, Cryptosporidium) – shall not be detectable in 10 litres of sample.

With the above suggested changes expert group recommended the draft standards for water as an ingredient of food may be placed before the scientific panel for food additives, flavourings, processing aides and materials in contact with food for further evaluation and recommendation.

Similarly the draft definition of “non-carbonated water-based beverages (non-alcoholic)” was critically examined by the expert group and suggested the following changes:

a. The definition of the non carbonated water based beverages should be categorised and revised as follows

i) Water-based beverages with added fruits/vegetables, aromatic and herbal flavours: This includes fruit flavour ades, fruit juices/pulp/puree/concentrated fruit juices, herb-based drinks (e.g. Iced tea, fruit flavoured iced tea), lactic acid beverages (buttermilk), used as single ingredient or in combination but less than 10% of fruits/vegetable content and less than 5% of lime/lemon content. Or containing extracts, essences and /or aromatic substances of herbs, edible parts of plant (considering their safety factor regarding consumption) (e.g. seeds, leaves, bark, stems, roots etc.), natural or nature identical flavour concentrates not more than 0.05% used singly or in combination with or without added artificial sweeteners permitted under FSS Regulation (3.1.3).

ii) Water-based beverage with added micronutrient: This may contain added vitamins, electrolytes, minerals with or without permitted sweeteners, additives and may also contain ingredients mentioned in category i) to be used singly or in combination but not more than the limit prescribed for these ingredients in category i).

a. It was pointed out that safety aspect of the parts of plants used in water based beverages should be added in form of a foot note. A reference of the herbs which can be used and those which are permitted should be mentioned as foot note.

b. Experts opined that special reference should be given as a foot note for psychotropic substances like opium etc. derived from plants and herbs, which shall not be used in these water based beverages.

c. Good established practices for use of the flavours, extracts, their limit of addition etc. should be a part of the foot note. Additional information on existing practice of addition of flavours in the water based beverages and its quantity in percentage may be obtained from the manufacturer's association.

d. The expert group opined that necessary addition to be done in category 2 of water based beverages that herbal water should contain flavours of natural origin only.

e. The group suggested that the statement under provision 2.10.6, para 2 “shall not be packed, distributed or sold in returnable containers”, should be deleted .

f. It was asked to collect data regarding the use of natural/ nature identical flavours in water from European Union, USA, UK/CODEX.

Further, the expert group deliberated on the representation submitted by the packer of Natural

Spring water under the brand Mulshi Spring. The expert group opined that the Natural spring water was obtained directly from natural sources springs artesian well, or from an underground water bearings strata for which all possible precaution needed to be taken within the protected perimeters to avoid any pollutions or external influence on the water quality. Spring water required to be collected under conditions, which guarantee the original natural bacteriological purity and chemical composition of essential components and need to be bottled at the point of emergence of the source under hygienic conditions. It was not subjected to any chemical treatment as such as pasteurization, ionization, or ozonation. Keeping in a view, risk associated with the natural spring water specific standard need to be laid down.

In light of the issues mentioned above and deliberations of the expert group on the same, Chairperson suggested that more information on natural spring water may be obtained from the applicant and standards prescribed for the natural spring water by the international agencies / countries (USA, UK, EU, Codex etc) may be obtained and specific standard to be drafted for the appropriate consideration and recommendation by the Expert Group / Scientific Panel.
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