The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will focus on special food category while formulating the guidelines, which are on the anvil, for food labels. Also, it is devising a provision to support the use of additives with safety norms, this has been informed to FnB News by Dr D B Narayana, who is a leading scientist and regulatory expert on food, traditional medicine and pharma.
In the case of food standards for dietary uses, the Authority is looking into foods not just for infants but for also patients who are required to take certain foods (like nutraceuticals) under medical advise, stated Dr Narayana in a presentation titled ‘Understanding the evolving regulatory framework for functional food and beverage in India.’
“In the pre-FSSAI era prior to 2006, only fortified and proprietary foods existed. But now there is a presence of a range of functional foods, food supplements and foods for special nutritional or dietary uses,” said Dr Narayana.
In the infant food category there are infant formula foods, follow-up-formulae, complementary foods for infants and infant foods for special medical purposes. In the general foods category, there are nutraceuticals and novel foods.
“Foods for special nutrition or dietary uses must indicate validated labels which provide distinct composition differing from normal foods, if it exists. It should also specify supplements to regular diet or address certain diseases / physiological conditions,” he said.
Provision for food standards for dietary uses as per the draft is still under discussion and needs extensive compliance with all the requirements laid down for each category. Therefore the labels must mention clearly the purpose of marketing, physiological conditions addressed by the functional food.
Also, adherence to all other labelling conditions like its sound medical and nutritional principles, safety, beneficial, effective factors need to be clearly indicated. In the case of vitamins & minerals, if added, the food manufacturer should consider upper safe levels, varying degrees of sensitivity of consumers and intake from other dietary sources.
For botanical and ayurveda siddha and unani (ASU) ingredients, the Section 22 of the Food Safety Standards Act (FSSA) has specified the contents. Manufacturers need to interpret and allow innovations of the “food-medicine” part of the ASU wisdom for benefit of consumers, Dr Narayana stated.
The ministry of health and department of Ayush have prepared a list of ASU ingredients for incorporation into the regulations of the FSSA. The list provides botanical names, part of the plants used. In addition, over 300 ingredients from plants source, over 15 from animal source, and around 16 from metals-minerals-other sources have been identified for safe use.
“Therefore, the challenge of product development in the post-FSSAI era covers selection of formats, ingredients and compositions apart from balancing benefits and efficacy by way of right levels of the nutrients and taste. Even the packaging should be environment- and consumer-friendly yet aesthetic, non-medicinal but food and ensure shelf life in a temperate country like India,” said Dr Narayana.