stringent labelling norms for food products are on the anvil as the Union government in consultation with the Central Committee for Food Standards has decided to amend the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. A notification to this effect came out for comments on November 28, 2005.
The Union ministry of health and family welfare said the proposed amendments would bring food packaging and labelling at par with international standards. "This would benefit the consumers,' asserts Bejon Misra, chief executive officer, Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education, Delhi.
While the existing rule mandates only the name, description and ingredients to be put on the labels, the proposed amendment lays down specific guidelines that ensure more detailed information. For example, a product that does not contain the requisite quantity of fruit cannot be termed a fruit product nor can it carry photographs of fruits.
Another major amendment concerns fats. The labels would have to mention if the fats used are saturated or unsaturated, the amount of trans fatty acids and even the source of the fat. The label would also have to provide the total energy, vitamin and mineral contents of the product.
However, the food processing industry has strongly objected to the notification. "It will be difficult to comply with the proposed labelling norms,' says DV Malhan, spokesperson, All India Food Processors' Association. "The list of ingredients along with their weights and volumes, as suggested in the notification, might lead to copying of the product by competitors,' he adds and doubts if the information will have any utility for the consumers, in view of the low awareness level in the country.
However, consumers might have to wait for another couple of months for the new norms to take effect.