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Regulations for superfoods in India: Emerging scenario
Wednesday, 08 December, 2021, 15 : 00 PM [IST]
Rajappan Jayakumar
The first-ever recorded usage of this word was in a Jamaican newspaper, and it was actually referred to a wine brand - which just got creative and disruptive. The second known happening was in 1949, where another Canadian newspaper was advertising a muffin using the word superfood. The whole thing of using this term for marketing is definitely not a new thing for the reason that even before the term started being used in its true sense of the word; it was actually being used by brands.

Few  players in Indian context are providing a strong base for traditional and convenient superfoods.And are now focussed on creating products out of convenient superfoods like Oats, Quinoa, Millets - cookies, cake rusks, noodles, pasta and so on, and continue to create, innovate and produce the products to meet the customers’ expectations.

The evolution of ‘superfoods’ is the latest, created by the marketing buzz. Each food has its role in attaining a purposeful nutrition level becoming a superfood. Unfortunately, over the last few years, few foods have gained media attention as ‘superfood.’

USFDA has also to some extent been assimilated, integrated, and harmonised into the Indian standards, thereby bringing them almost at par with the global standards.These ‘superfoods’ are mostly popularised by international foods and have come to India at the cost of the rich variety of Indian foods that have existed for centuries.

Upcoming Food Regulations in India?
These are exciting times for food safety regulations in India. The recent proposals mentioned in the new Draft Regulations will soon be finalised to become the new Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2015.
This will provide new directives in areas such as nutraceuticals and health supplements, which is the need of the hour as these are becoming popular food categories. Food business manufacturers have anticipated some positive changes in food regulations, which could ease the product approval process and food operations.

Olive Vs Groundnut
Olive Oil is widely used as a salad oil worldwide. It gained popularity a few years ago in India as a ‘healthier oil’ primarily due to a wide range of misconceptions and promotions. The amount of olive oil sold in the world today exceeds the production capacities, creating artificial demand and driving pricing up higher.

Maximum of the olive oil sold in the market for general cooking is blended with Pomace Oil (Pomace oil is extracted from the olive pulp whereas Olive oil is extracted from the seed and the fruit. The refined Pomace oil is more processed which can lose the nutritional quality of olive oil)

Both Olive Oil & Groundnut oil is ‘heart-friendly oils’ and are rich in omega 6 fatty acids. (groundnut oil is more native and has a good amount of phytonutrients and antioxidants that protect the body from damage from free radicals)

Why is there a need to focus on what we have (Indian superfoods) especially in today’s times?
We had a belief once that the healthiest food you could eat had to be sourced from around you locally. What we eat directly affects the environment in which we live. For instance, the Indian diet, though believed to be majority rice, also includes a number of millets, wheat, and other grains.

From the past few decades, we’ve moved predominantly towards rice & wheat – for domestic and export purposes. Rice needs a lot more water for cultivation than the millets do. We’re clearing away the vast tract of forest lands into rice farms, and we’re starving communities for water to grow these plants. Our vast majority of communities are struggling nutritionally because just rice cannot give the human body all the nutrients it needs.

Regulatory Trends
•    GST Goods & Services Tax (GST) implemented by India is perceived to be one of the largest tax reforms in the world and has had a major impact on the food industry.
•    Unorganised to Organised: Companies can look at vendor rationalisation and increase the share of organised vendors in order to be able to claim tax benefits available under GST.
•    Easier Transportation: The removal of octroi and entry tax is likely to significantly reduce the time and hassle of transporting goods across state borders.
•    Logistics Efficiency: GST implementation is expected to result in efficiencies in warehousing and logistics space, thereby reducing wastage in the food industry. GST could reduce the logistics costs of companies producing non-bulk goods by as much as 20%, according to an estimate by Crisil Ltd.
•    Government of India (GoI) Support: The Ministry of Food Processing, GoI has set up a GST facilitation cell for queries in the sector. Recently, GST rates of pasta and noodles have been moved to 12% slab from 18%.
FSSA regulations
•    FSSAI compliances for label claims, packaging, freshness, along with the impetus to the processing under Make in India and Sampada schemes.
•    Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India. FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety. Over the last 2 years, FSSAI has strengthened the regulatory environment as well as improved the compliance of these regulations.
•    December 2017, FSSAI to establish a self-regulation platform for food companies, retailers stocking packaged food, and fast-food restaurant chains. The Responsible Food Companies Score (ReFoc Score) is proposed to be a publicly accessible online platform for companies to rate themselves against parameters such as compliance with regulations, nutritive content, dealing with consumer grievances, upstream and downstream supply chain capacity and promoting food safety in schools.
•    May 2017, FSSAI reported that milk adulteration is more in North India than South India - FSSAI developed testing kits to check the quality of milk and is negotiating with investors for mass production and marketing of the kit.
•    March 2017, the import of food items with a balance shelf life of less than 60% was banned. This is expected to result in better quality products arriving in India.
•    October 2016, new standards on fortification of food were released. This included increased regulation of fortified/prepared foods and Integrated Child Development Schemes to include fortified/prepared food.
•    2015 - Impact of the Maggi ban on other companies as compliance levels increased – almost 20 popular brands including Ching's Secret, Top Ramen and HUL's Knorr were selling without requisite approvals from FSSAI when the Maggi ban happened. HUL voluntarily decided to recall its Knorr instant noodles from the market till such time as its application was approved by FSSAI.
•    2015, FSSAI banned Maggi over high lead content affecting sales of the entire noodles category. Tamil Nadu banned the sale of Wai Express Noodles, Reliance Select Instant Noodles and Smith & Jones chicken masala noodles.

(The author is co-founder & CEO at Grami Super Foods)
 
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