Highlighting the flaws in FSSAIs proposed regulation on Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling (FOPNL), BJP Lok Sabha member Varun Gandhi said in a recent tweet, "FSSAI's nutrition-labelling draft notification is a misguided effort to rate Indian packaged foods with western options. It will skew consumption away from Indian MSMEs towards western MNCs and can be economically ruinous for marginal farmers & traditional Indian food manufacturers."
The study which Varun Gandhi posted and commented on was released by the Indian Sellers Collective, an umbrella body of trade associations and sellers across the country. The findings of the study cover favourite Indian foods as per the guidelines of the star rating method under the FOPNL regulation proposed by FSSAI.
FOPNL envisages a ranking system for packaged foods under which Indian cuisine and food products which make use of salt, sugar and fat for various scientific and customary reasons, will be marked 'unhealthy', which could lead to rejection by consumers.
The study also states that consumers will perceive Indian traditional foods to be 'unhealthy' when compared to western foods with equal, if not more, sugar, fat and salt content. The findings of the study claim flaws in the FOPNL rating method, as a large section of delicacies that the country loves to eat and gift can be instantly made to look unfit for human consumption. The study found that traditional foods from different parts of India such as Mathura Peda, Patisa, Mysore Pak, Peanut Chikki, Instant Poha etc. will receive low ratings.
The study further states that western foods of MNCs will get better ratings by following processes like reconstitution and substitution which are being granted exemption in the new system.
Accordingly, western packaged food companies having foods with a high or similar amount of salt and sugar will easily modify the nutrient composition of their food products to secure a better health star rating.
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This will ultimately destroy the MSME packaged food industry, which is the mainstay for the vast body of Indian sellers outside of big retail, and will open the floodgates for western packaged food to dominate the Indian markets.
The FOPNL will not only disrupt the traditional food industry, but will also have a negative impact on the livelihood of Indian farmers, small food manufacturers and poor unskilled retailers.
The FSSAI released the draft notification which seeks to amend the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) on September 13, 2022. Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling is part of this amendment. The FOPNL envisages a food rating system called the INR (Indian Nutrition Rating) and through this the foods will be given ratings based on their nutritional information per 100 gm or 100 ml. The ratings can be in a range of a half star or a 0.5 rating meaning 'least healthy' to five stars being the 'healthiest'.
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