FSSAI’s recent announcements and policy decisions regarding regulations were discussed and debated in detail at a regulatory compliance meet – Seminar on Regulatory Practices: Difficulties in Compliance – organised by PFNDAI (Protein Foods and Nutrition Development Association of India) here on Monday.
The pre-lunch session of the seminar kicked off with the inaugural address by Sailesh Venkatesan, VC, PFNDAI. He briefed on significance of regulatory practices and explained how last year, the food processing industry experienced a setback.
He was followed by Dr B Sesikeran, former director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. He opined, “The regulatory errors by the regulator while conducting tests and also while framing laws should be formulated and rectified and connected with the nutrition that is derived from the food or beverage that is tested. There is also need for more literature and studies which can help regulator to frame policies.”
A presentation on ‘Rule Making Process’ by Dr Joseph Lewis, consultant, FSSAI, and Dr V Sudershan Rao from National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, highlighted the need to emphasise on good regulatory practices. Lewis said, “Today, we have good manufacturing practices (GMP) but no one speaks about good regulatory practices (GRP). To ensure smooth working, every FBO should comply with the laws.”
He added, “Besides, we also need to take into consideration that there are certain confusing laws with regards to FBOs, particularly those in labelling. As per our existing Act, laws regarding what a label should mention when an FBO is dealing with consumers is given clearly. While on the other side, in the B2B space when an FBO is dealing with another FBO on a wholesale front — to reach its labelling requirements that a B2B activity requires, there are exemptions given in the ‘FBO to consumer chapter’ that has to be followed.”
Lewis suggested, “There have to be two separate chapters which clearly state FBO to FBO and FBO to consumers labelling requirements which can avoid confusion.”
Later, while speaking on risk assessment and its use in framing laws, especially for framing and determining limits, Dr Rao pointed out, “Risk assessment will be helpful to determine tolerance levels or permissible limits to the contaminants, micro and macro nutrients, residues and others. Studies in this regard will be helpful to determine permissible limits.”
Speaking on nutrients and total diet studies for nutrients, he said, “If you consider diet which we have today, we see that cereals are vanishing from our meals and also millets are almost out of our diets. Fat in the meals can be seen growing.”
He added, “A total diet study which will be helpful for the industry is stalled due to the unavailability of funds. It needs Rs 80 crore.”
At the end, Dr Lewis said, “In the earlier law when PFA was in practice, before every meeting they held they came up with an agenda and circulated to its members and made the details of the meeting public making it more transparent.”
He further stated, “The regulator should involve the industry stakeholder in the law making process before it is drafted and prepared. It is very difficult once a draft of law is framed to change it.”
The next slot was dedicated to a discussion on ‘Analysis and reports: failure and risk.’ Dr Nilesh Amritkar, MD, Envirocare Labs, said, “There are several grey areas in the law, like which tests should be conducted, through which method is not clearly specified. Sometimes it happens to be like due to lack of communication from the regulator, several FBOs insist on tests which actually aren’t prescribed by the FSSAI.”
While ending the session, Sunil Adsule from Coca Cola gave a small presentation on ‘Role of processed foods and beverages in national food nutrition and security.’ He shared, “We are a processed food manufacturer, we are not manufacturing to put anyone into a problem. Last year, was a bad year for processed food industry as it incurred more than Rs 2,000 crore loss. We are also concerned about our consumers to provide safe food.”
The post-lunch session focussed on issues and interpretations that the industry faced, especially, in the last year. This session opened with V Mohan, advisor, corporate lawyer and consultant. He said, “Several judgements by courts have relieved the industry like those of Nestle’s Maggi which is all clear now. The major confusion in the law written is ‘may’ and ‘shall.’ Then there are certain documents which give space to create tension and friction between the laws which are in place. They should not clash with each other.”
Later Dr Shatadru Sengupta, senior director, legal, Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd, said, “With regards to FSSAI laws, which are in place, there is a need to create a definite law structure. The points which are prescribed in the FSS Act on misbranding and misleading have to be revised and are subject to be studied again. Some claims like a product not containing trans fat should be allowed.”
Sengupta was followed by Dr Jasvir Singh, associate VP, head, scientific affairs, regulatory affairs, Mondelez International, who stressed on proprietary foods and recent advances. He said, “We have proprietary foods and the primary concern is that if at any level, a proprietary food is detected with impurities or adulterants then all the responsibility will have to be taken by the manufacturer. This clause will reflect badly on the FBO as it may be that the FBO has no hand in such an activity.”
Singh added, “There is a need to develop a framework which will be applicable to all products like labelling or manufacturing. Vertical standards are moving away from standards being framed globally. Yes, vertical standards have importance but to a defined set of laws only.”
In the end, Sandhya Shrivastav, associate professor, department of microbiology, University of Mumbai, gave a presentation on bacterial identification and standardisation to help in regulating smoothly. “Studies can help up to generate data on the bacterias which are of concern. Nobody has studied bacterias like salmonella which has reflected on the fate of processed foods today. Such bacterias have to be studied and hazard levels regarding the same will help to regulate easy.”
Overall, the seminar stressed on regulatory issues at the regulator’s as well as FBO’s level. It discussed the awareness among FBOs, and focussed on labelling requirements for export and import.