The Food Categorization System (FCS) has been created in compliance with the guiding principles of the FSSA, 2006 and in keeping with India’s commitment to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Indian food category system has therefore been harmonised with the Food Categorisation System adopted in Codex General Standard For Food Additives (GSFA).
The following important points were some of the principles that were kept in mind when formulating the FCS:
In construction and design, FCS should be such that each category number can be used as a code especially for the purpose of food licensing. The code needs to be expandable so that if there is a future need to make new additions to the category it should be possible to include those into the category.
- Science based, simple, have clarity and certainty
The FCS categorisation must be simple, clear, have certainty and be based on sound scientific principles. The regulators as well as the stakeholders must be able to understand the categorisation clearly.
- Dual purpose for National and International regulatory framework
FCS has to be designed in such a way that it conforms to the recent developments in the areas of food classification and categorisation for the purpose of food regulators at the national and international level. FCS must make it simple to do data reporting, worksheet construction, and other regulatory needs such as food additive regulation development, dietary exposure assessments etc.
FCS has to cover all foods just as they are marketed, whether their standards have been defined or not. This will make the system relevant in the food consumption and dietary exposure assessment context. An FCS system will enable India to defend its position in international platforms as the system will be able to scientifically capture and analyse data and seamlessly integrate and compare with developments in International frameworks, such as Codex. It is very important to objectively analyse the relevant data and for this regulators have used the categorisation system especially when groups of similar products are clubbed together as a single category. Categories are used to capture information and drive regulatory decisions.
Need for Food Categorisation System
- Provides clarity to all stakeholders including enforcement agencies
- By cataloguing food into various categories in an ordered manner it provides predictability, certainty and direction.
- Since information is provided in a clustered but clutter free manner it enables easy navigation through the vast information.
- FCS allows direction and space for future regulatory developments also
Apart from this, FCS plays an important part in describing, characterizing, denominating, naming and specifying all the products. It allows comparison of similar products, collection of information on similar products and recovery of any older information on products. Categorisation is an effective mean of allowing regulators to have control over the entire chain as this is independent of food product standards and covers the entire basket of products in any particular category. This means that each new product introduced in the market will be placed into the already created categories and so there is no requirement to create a new entry in FCS for each product addition.
This categorization system will also help in licensing/ registration of service sector, where all FBOs, such as retailers, transporters, storage and warehousing agents etc., will be required to just fill in the main categories which they are dealing with and not each and every product. Categorisation will help the FSSAI to create a database of Food Business Operators and the products being manufactured by them. As mentioned above, creation of a database on the category basis, rather than product basis is the only solution as each food would make it impossible to manage such a huge database.
Categories of FCS
FCS has 18 main categories out of which 1 to 16 are the different kinds of foods and category 17 is to supplement foods placed in categories 1 to 16. A category 99 has been created to deal with substances added to foods like vitamins, minerals, additives etc.
- Dairy products and analogues
- Fats and oils, and fat emulsions
- Edible ices, including sorbet
- Fruits and vegetables (including mushrooms and fungi, roots and tubers, fresh pulses and legumes, and aloe Vera), seaweeds, and nuts and seeds
- Cereals and cereal products, derived from cereal grains, from roots and tubers, pulses, legumes (fresh pulses and legumes are covered in category 4.2) and pith or soft core of palm tree, excluding bakery wares of food category 07.0
- Bakery products
- Meat and meat products, including poultry and game
- Fish and fish products, including molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms
- Eggs and egg products
- Sweeteners, including honey
- Salts, spices, soups, sauces, salads and protein products
- Foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses
- Beverages, excluding dairy products
- Ready-to-eat savouries
- Prepared Foods/dishes including Composite foods
- Products not covered into category nos 1-16
- (99) Substances added to food which are ‘not for direct consumption as food’