In 2014 the FSSAI had made amendments to the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011. According to a notification dated 4 November 2015 these regulations were notified in the Official gazette, copies of which were made available to the public on the 5th December, 2014.
The changes in standards had been made to ‘Crop Contaminants and naturally occurring toxic substances.’ These amendments were dealing with naturally occurring toxins like Agaric acid, Hydrocyanic acid, Hypericine and Saffrole. The names of the foods these natural toxins occur in along with ppm levels have now become standards. These regulations will be called the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) (Amendment) Regulations, 2015.
Table: MRLs of Naturally occurring Toxic Substances in Foods
Recently FSSAI has taken out another notice in the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011 relating to ‘Heavy Metals.’ The FSSAI has called for suggestions, views, comments etc. from stakeholders on the proposed standards for removal of Zinc from the list of heavy metal contaminants. Earlier standards for zinc had been given for ready to drink beverages, orange, tomato, grape, pineapple and lemon juices, pulps of fruits, infant foods, turmeric powder, edible gelatine, hard boiled sugar confectionery and fruit and vegetable products. FSSAI has now proposed omitting zinc from the list of contaminants in all these foods in which case these standards will be omitted too.
Foods naturally contain zinc but vary greatly in their zinc content. Zinc is one of the essential nutrients needed by the body for growth, development of bones, metabolism and wound-healing. Lack of adequate amounts of zinc can also affect the health adversely as people with low zinc levels can have a decreased sense of taste and smell, poor appetite, inability to fight infections and slow healing of wounds and sores. The World Health Organisation says that there are millions of people who suffer zinc deficiency. Micronutrients like zinc are needed only in small amounts by the body but are critical for growth in children. Zinc therefore is also used for fortifying foods as it reduces zinc deficiency.
Zinc is normally found in small amounts in nature but absorbing too much zinc into the body can also cause health problems. Zinc is used in certain industries and can be released into the environment during mining and smelting. People living close to these industries can be exposed to higher levels of zinc by drinking water, breathing air and touching soil that contains the metal. Zinc can also enter the body by eating foods that contain zinc or drinking water that flows through zinc coated pipes or other beverages that are stored in metal cans.