Ramdev’s ‘atta noodles’ were launched only recently but the brand is facing problems of product approval. The FSSAI has said that Patanjali noodles have not obtained the necessary approvals that are required for non-standardised products. FSSAI had introduced the advisory system on product approval to streamline the entire process of approving the non-standardized food articles keeping in mind safety of food and public health. Section 22 of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 states that a prior approval from the Central Government needs to be obtained for the food products for which no standards are available.
After the FSSAI’s advisory in this regard on 11th May 2013, all food manufacturers and importers were required to get product approval for the additives and ingredients in all products that were to be introduced in the Indian market for the first time and for which there are no standards available under FSS Act, Rules & Regulations. FSSAI has standards for approximately 380 articles of food, so almost all food manufacturers and importers of novel foods, functional foods, dietary supplements, nutraceuticals, extracts or concentrates of botanicals, herbals etc. had to apply for product approval as per the FSSAI advisory.
Challenging the 11th May 2013 advisory issued by the Apex Regulator, a petition was filed by Vital Nutraceuticals and Indian Drug Manufacturers Association in the Bombay High Court. In their petition they argued that the FSSAI could not force food operators to seek approvals for products that were being manufactured and marketed since many years. They could do so only if these products had introduced a new ingredient that needed testing for safety purposes. The petition also questioned the product approval procedure through issuing the advisory rather than through a regulation.
The Bombay High Court ordered that this advisory be quashed and this order was later upheld by the Supreme Court when FSSAI went in appeal. The Apex Court said that the FSSAI advisory did not have the force of law and was not within the scope of the powers given to FSSAI under the Food Act. Following this the FSSAI on 26 August 2015 in a document stated that it is no longer possible for them to continue with the existing Food Product Approval System as was facilitated through their advisory of 11 May 2013.
Product Approval system had been in existence since 2013 for approval of food products under Section 22 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. But after the Supreme Court order and subsequent document issued by FSSAI in August 2015, the food manufacturers are under the impression that PA system is no longer operational as there are no updates on this from the Apex Food Regulator. However, the controversy over Patanjali noodles has again left business operators in a state of confusion. Since there is no product approval system so food operators are not sure whether to apply for product approval or not.
In view of this backdrop Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali ‘atta noodles’ would require product approval only if they contain ingredients that have been introduced in the ‘atta noodles’ for the first time. Since the product approval system is not operational presently who would Patanjali noodles have applied to for product approval? There is also some talk about having approval for pasta and not for noodles. Broadly speaking noodles and pasta fall in the same category but more clarifications are required on this point form FSSAI also.
Patanjali noodles have clarified that the contract units that manufacture the noodles for them have licenses for manufacturing noodles. There are some questions about the use of FSSAI license number on the labels of Patanjali noodles for which FSSAI has sought explanation from the newest noodle maker. Patanjali on their part has claimed that they have a manufacturing license from the state. The Yoga guru has confirmed that Patanjali representatives will be visiting FSSAI headquarters with original copies of the selling licence and the manufacturer’s licence.
FSSAI has powers to prosecute food business operators for violation of the FSS Act, Rules & Regulations. Experts are of the opinion that proprietary food operators don’t need to apply for FSSAI product approvals or NOCs. However, FSSAI will have to clarify this point so no confusion remains in the minds of all food business operators.