Consumers are asking one question and that is to eat or not to eat bread

Consumers are asking one question and that is to eat or not to eat bread

Consumers are asking one question and that is to eat or not to eat bread

Bread, in some form or the other has been a part of the human diet from prehistoric times and continues to be relished all over the world. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) recently published a report that gave bread eaters in India a jolt. They reported that potassium bromate and potassium iodate, both cancer causing chemicals, were detected in packaged bread, burger buns and pizza bases. Following the report, the consumption of bread fell drastically in some parts of the country.

So what exactly is potassium bromate? Potassium bromate is an oxidizing agent that is found in the form of white crystals or powder. It is used as a flour improver / treatment agent to hold the bread together and give it is soft, elastic texture. It allows the dough to be kneaded easily and bleaches the dough so the bread looks white. Once the bread is baked ideally it should not contain any potassium bromate or it should be within negligible limits. Potassium bromate is found in larger quantities if bromate added flour isn’t baked long enough or at a temperature that is high enough to remove it or if too much potassium bromate is added in the first place.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulations allow the use of potassium bromate and standards say that “if maida is used for bakery purposes then the following flour treatment agents can be used in the quantities mentioned which for Potassium bromate is (Max) 20ppm (parts per million). Residue of bromate in bread can be up to 50ppm. However, many countries have banned the use of potassium bromate as a flour treatment agent when in 1999 the Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that the chemical additive caused tumours of the kidney, abdominal lining and thyroid cancer in animals and termed them as possibly carcinogenic for humans. The FSSAI has now declared that that it would ban the use of potassium bromate as an additive in bread.

The publication of the CSE report has also caused a furore among commercial bread manufacturers and they along with quick service restaurants denied the use of the potassium bromate in their products. The All India Bread Manufacturers’ Association (AIBMA) declared that they would use other oxidants if consumers are not happy with the use of potassium bromate even though when used carefully within permitted limits, it only enhances the quality of bread. After a drop in sale of bread some manufacturers have resorted to declaring on their labels that their bread is and has always been free of potassium bromate. This again could lead to more regulatory hassles if bromate is found in their bread from other sources like water which could contain potassium bromate or due to naturally occurring bromate.

Potassium bromate can be formed in groundwater especially if the water is saline and if found in water, it is termed a contaminant. In drinking water bromate can be formed when it undergoes treatment to disinfect it from contaminants, like ozone treatment. The ozone reacts with bromide found naturally in water to form potassium bromate depending upon the treatment reaction conditions. Bromate can also be introduced into drinking water from chlorine used for disinfection. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its report has stated that increased risk from drinking water every day poses some amount of risk of cancer. FSSAI has recently proposed standards for drinking water prescribing the limit of bromate to be 0.01 ppm. Since a number of bread manufacturers have denied the use the potassium bromate in the bread then it is important to test if the possible source of bromate in bread is actually from untested water or due to the oxidation of bromide during processing.

Consumers are still confused whether to eat bread or not. It seems that the risk of cancer or kidney problems comes only from ingesting very large amounts of bromate which is many times higher than what has been found in bread. The AIBMA has pointed that the US food regulator FDA has not banned the use of these chemicals as they are considered to be safe when used within permitted limits. Moreover, levels of potassium bromate or potassium iodate residues found in the samples of bread tested by CSE was in the range of 1.15 –22.54 ppm, but not all the samples were found with a high range. In my opinion, the consumers should not panic as there is no harm if potassium bromate is found present in bread at low levels due to natural occurrence or residual effect but not as an additive. It is very good initiative that FSSAI has banned the use of bromate however naturally occurring bromate or bromate produced during the processing could be detected at very low levels but it should not be a food safety concern for the consumer.

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FSSAI lists FBOs who have withdrawn or modified misleading advertisements

FSSAI lists FBOs who have withdrawn or modified misleading advertisements

FSSAI lists FBOs who have withdrawn or modified misleading advertisements

On 17 June 2016 the FSSAI published a list regarding withdrawal or modification of misleading advertisements by Food Business Operators (FBOs) after the intervention of the FSSAI. These misleading advertisements have been withdrawn or modified from/in all sources of media.

The first name on the list is that of M/S Jivo Wellness Pvt Ltd. The misleading claim made by the firm was that their Canola Oil prevents diabetes and heart diseases and they even claimed that Fortis Hospital (C-Doc) has put their seal on these two claims. The FBO has withdrawn the entire misleading advertisement.

Chemical Resources, Maharashtra claimed that their product ‘Furocyst’ had therapeutic benefits or had a positive effect on 94% patients as it either dissolved their cysts or reduced them in size. They also claim that it was US patented and showed no side effects.  The company has now modified these claims.

KC Food Products Pvt Ltd of Jammu and Kashmir claimed that their ‘Digestive biscuits’ were the best in India. They said it was India’s best digestive biscuits because they used the highest content of wheat flour as compared to similar biscuits in the market. The advertisement has been withdrawn by the FBO.

Phytotech Extracts Pvt Ltd claimed that their product ‘Proteqt’ was capable of removing morning blues after a party and the user remained fresh. They claimed it was natural and so there were no after effects of a party and so there was no dullness in the morning. The product was to be taken 10 to 15 minutes before the party and it was the ‘first time ever’. They claimed the product was enriched in flavonoids, polyphenois, tannins and Vitamin C anti oxoidants etc. The company has submitted to the FBO that they have stopped the manufacture and marketing of such a product and so no advertisement is being published presently.

According to the Food Act 2006 no food can be advertised that misleads or deceives or which contravenes the provisions of the FSS Act and the rules and regulations made under it whether orally or in writing. Advertisements cannot falsely claim that foods are of a certain standard, quality, quantity or grade composition. It cannot make a false or misleading representation about the need for or the usefulness of the product.

The FSS Act also has a provision for imposing penalty for misleading Act. Any person that falsely describes any food or misleads consumers about the nature, substance or quality of any food, or gives false guarantee can be liable for penalty up to Rs.10 lakhs.

In 2015 the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found the advertisement of Dabur India Limited misleading. The advertisement made unsubstantiated claims that Dabur Chyawanprash gives three times more immunity which makes kids strong from within.

Presently some of Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved products are under ASCI’s scanner among which is their advertisement of mustard oil. The ASCI says that the claims about Kachi Ghani Mustard Oil were unsubstantiated and misleading. The advertisement claims that most other edible refined oils and mustard oils are made using neurotoxin Hexagon solvent extraction process, as many companies mix cheap palm oil in mustard oil, to make profits at the cost of consumers’ health.

FMCG major ITC has also come under flak from ASCI because the advertisement claim that Aashirvaad Multigrain Atta is “India’s No. 1 Atta”, is misleading by ambiguity as the claim was for the mother brand Aashirvaad and not for the variant -Aashirvaad Atta with multi-grains.

FSSAI operationalizes the new list of permissible food additives

FSSAI operationalizes the new list of permissible food additives

FSSAI operationalizes the new list of permissible food additives

Since the past three years FSSAI has been in the process of developing food standards for food additives. The list of 11,000 permissible additives has been finalised and has become operational on 20 June 2016. Food Business Operators (FBOs) will now be able to use these permitted additives in foods without product approval from the FSSAI. Previously FBOs needed product approval from the FSSAI for using any new additives. This process took a long time but with standardisation of food additives FBOs will be able to manufacture products more easily.

The FSSAI has also removed the following two additives from the final list

  • Potassium Bromate
  • Cyclamates

Potassium bromate has been in the news recently as a cancer causing substance used in bread and bakery products. Cyclamates is used in jams, jellies, marmalades, dairy based drinks, confectionary etc. Henceforth these two additives will no longer be allowed to be used in any food category.  The issue of the use of Potassium Iodate, another cancer causing substance, will be discussed at a Scientific Committee meeting to be held in a few days and a decision will be made about its use.

The completion of the list of permitted additives involved a huge exercise because the foods standards that existed under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act,1955 had to be harmonised with the International Codex Standards. FSSAI’s ‘Scientific Panel on Food Additives’ shifted through 6,000 provisions of food additives under the PFA Act and after going through Codex provisions for food additives they finalized a list of about 11,000 provisions.  This list was approved by the 15th Scientific Committee with modification in December, 2014 and 16th Food Authority meeting held in January, 2015.

On 15th August, 2016 a draft notification was issued by the FSSAI on the standards of food additives. FSSAI had invited comments and suggestions from stakeholders after the draft standards were released to the public. Stake holders had some issues with some additives and so from the list of 11,000 provisions for food additives 8000 were first operationalized in December 2016 and added to the pre-existing regulations in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011. With the finalisation and operationalization of the new list of 11,000 provisions of food additives the previous list of 8,000 provisions of food additives as well as the pre-existing provisions in the regulations will now be replaced. FBOs have to now follow the standards as provided in the new list of 11,000 provisions of food additives operationalized on 20 June 2016.

The FSSAI has already notified specifications for proprietary foods so FBOs can manufacture and process new foods that may contain the standardized and approved ingredients in the Food Safety and Standards Regulations and may also use the food additives permitted in the new list of standard categories or sub-categories. FSSAI has also finalized a list of food additives with respect to alcoholic beverages in alignment with International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) Standards. With the operationalization of these standards FSSAI has achieved a major land mark in setting standards for various foods in the country.

Some issues with respect to the additives were received by the FSSAI after the finalisation of the list of additives. These issues will be discussed at the meeting of the Scientific Committee on 28 June 2016 that has been convened by the FSSAI.

FSSAI proposes draft standards related to Carbonated Fruit Beverages or Fruit Drinks

FSSAI proposes draft standards related to Carbonated Fruit Beverages or Fruit Drinks

FSSAI proposes draft standards related to Carbonated Fruit Beverages or Fruit Drinks

The FSSAI has proposed standards to be called the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Amendment Regulations, 2016 related to Carbonated Fruit Beverages and Fruit Drinks. Through a notification the FSSAI has also asked stakeholders to send their suggestions, views and comments to FSSAI within a period of 30 days beginning from 21 June 2016.

Some additions have been made to the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 under the sub-category relating to Carbonated Fruit Beverages or Fruit Drinks. The FSSAI regulations defines carbonated fruit beverages or fruit drinks as a beverage which is prepared from fruit juice and water or carbonated water and contains sugar, dextrose, invert sugar or liquid glucose. It may also contain peel oil and fruit essences and other appropriate ingredients.

The standards in the 2011 regulations will remain the same which means that Total Soluble solids (m/m), Fruit content (m/m) and other fruits must not be less than 10.0 percent. For lime and lemon the content is 5.0 percent. This standard is to continue but in addition FSSAI has proposed changes which pertain to standards if the quantity of fruit juice is less than 10.0 percent but not less than 5.0 percent and not less than 2.5 percent for lime or lemon

  • If this is applicable then the beverage will be called ‘carbonated beverage with fruit juice’
  • In this case the requirement of Total Soluble Solids TSS shall not apply
  • The quantity of fruit juice shall be declared on the label

In September 2015 Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had suggested that at least five percent of fizzy drinks manufactured be blended with fresh fruit juices to help local farmers. Almost 35 per cent of fruits and vegetables are wasted because of lack of processing and storage facilities. If these are used in carbonated drinks the local farmers will not be able to have a market for some of their fruit.

Some of the carbonated drinks companies say that it might not be possible to incorporate fruit into their present formulations which are made without fruit as an ingredient. This is the reason that Coca Cola has already begun to work on a series of juice blended fizzy drink variants for this reason to target the health conscious consumers.

Some of the issues that have been pointed out by the Indian Beverage Association (IBA) are that carbonated water using fruit juice will not be able to meet the pesticide residue standards of 1part per billion (ppb). They also point out that since fruit juice is microbiologically sensitive as an ingredient therefore it could require a higher level or preservatives than permitted if it is to have the desired shelf life. Another issue highlighted is that adding the percentage of fruit juice as required by standards leads to product instability. They also wanted the TSS to be brought down from 10 percent to 3 percent.

Some of these issues have already been met by the FSSAI in the proposed draft related to Carbonated Fruit Beverages and Fruit Drinks. So it should not be long before consumers have a new choice in beverages.  The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) already seems to have stolen a march over others as their technology innovation of carbonated fruit juices of grape, apple, and pomegranate have already been introduced and they contain 20 percent fruit extracts.  It seems that Thumbs Up and Minute Maid will also have their carbonated fruit beverages on the shelves soon.

Customs officers to act as food safety officers at seaports & airports

Monday, 27 June, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has decided to designate officials of the customs department to act as food safety officials at seaports and airports, key points from where imported food gets into the country.

The decision has attracted criticism from many quarters, as the two departments have different job profiles. Further, it has brought to the fore issues plaguing the apex food regulator such as shortage of qualified manpower resulting in shutting down of two regional offices in Lucknow and Chandigarh. More than anything else, it is being felt that the move is likely to put the health of the people in the country at risk. But FSSAI does not seem to have much choice.

While Amit Khurana, programme manager, food safety, CSE, insists, “There may be a checklist for the customs officers to do as food import is a sensitive issue. And whatever FSSAI decides to do, it should have the food safety of domestic consumers a top priority,” FSSAI insiders maintain that this is part of a larger roadmap for food safety in which a surveillance-based risk management plan is being charted by the apex food regulator. They point out that in a past instance, faced with a situation of lack of enough staff to check the quality of wine and liquor, a similar decision was taken and states were allowed to use services of excise officers, duly qualified, to act as food safety officers.

The current situation seems no different. There are 125 entry points for importing food in the country and the staff strength is not enough to monitor it. Hence, customs officials will be acting as FSOs and supervising the food imports, taking samples for lab testing and after that approving the consignment for clearance.

Further, in the recent past, there has had been criticism on the kind of food imported in India and many a times it has been said that India was a dumping ground for food. FSSAI officials themselves have questioned the quality of a number of food commodities like canola oil, chocolate, seafood, and sauces and the claims made on their labels.

Thus it is no surprise that in the present scenario, an order dated March 29 states that in terms of provisions contained in Section 25 read with 45(5) of the FSS Act, the superintendent, appraiser, inspector or examiner of the concerned port listed by FSSAI were notified as authorised officer for food clearance. But it is also being said that the decision of the appointment of customs officials is in contradiction with FSSAI’s decision that the qualification should be equal when it comes to food safety checks. And, it has been decided to give the officials at ports, training on the subject of food safety.

Making the picture clear, a senior level officer from JNPT, Navi Mumbai, states, “The FSSAI has endowed a responsibility on us due to lack of manpower and also several other reasons like delay which takes place with regards to the imported consignments. Now the customs officers are receiving training sessions through the apex food regulator. Even in terms of any queries raised, we are open to connect with the nearby FDA offices.”

He adds, “Customs officers are always present at the point of entry. So, earlier an officer from food safety department selected products for regular sampling laboratory tests but now all these powers are endowed upon the customs officer.”

Primarily, FSOs should possess a degree in food technology or dairy technology or biotechnology or oil technology or agricultural science or veterinary sciences or bio-chemistry or microbiology or a masters in chemistry or degree in medicine from a recognised university. The officer can also have an equivalent or recognised qualification notified by the Centre, and he or she has to complete the mandated training before joining the post. But during the exercise of the comprehensive review last year it was proposed that the training could be imparted after recruitment.

Interestingly, though the move has not gone down well with those expressing concern over the country’s food safety, officials responsible for ensuring compliance to norms are happy about it. For instance, a senior officer from FDA Maharashtra, observes, “This move will cut down the delay which usually takes place when an imported consignment as it went for regular sampling or is sent to the laboratory inspection. All these powers regarding the imported product for regular sampling or sending products to laboratory inspections were only given to the food safety officers. But now as per the new amendment customs officer can ask for laboratory inspections of the imported products from the consignments.”

He adds, “This will help us for regulating in a better way avoiding the delay

Govt releases Rs 7.75 cr for food testing labs

The Minister acknowledged that strict regulations regarding food safety existed but there was laxity in their enforcement due to infrastructure shortcomings and official apathy.
Government has admitted that there was laxity in implementation of the food safety laws due to some constraints and released funds for strengthening of the food testing labs in Jammu and Kashmir. In reply to a question by legislator Mubarak Gul, that sought government to explain the steps being taken to ensure access to safe food and drugs, Bali Bhagat, Minister for Health and Medical Education, said that government was on the job and funds for augmentation of the food labs were released. “We have released Rs 7.75 crores for the labs. Of this, Rs 3 crore each will be spent on food testing labs in Jammu and Srinagar and Rs 1.75 crore will be spent on mobile testing vans,” Bhagat said.
The Minister acknowledged that strict regulations regarding food safety existed but there was laxity in their enforcement due to infrastructure shortcomings and official apathy.
He added that JK Medical Supplies Corporation had been given the charge of procurement of equipment for the labs, based on the specification of the instruments required for upgradation of the lab.
He further said that 25062 inspections had been conducted to check quality of food items in 2015-16 and 2866 samples were lifted for analysis out of which 419 samples were found adulterated and 282 samples were found misbranded. He said 729 prosecutions were filed during the year and 602 cases were decided by adjudicating officers. The Minister also said that a week-long special drive regarding milk and milk products had been conducted in April 2016 and 13472 liters of milk and milk products were destroyed on spot while 419 samples were lifted for analysis. He said 127 samples were analyzed out of which 41 samples were found substandard while 2 samples were misbranded. About Rs 56.91 lakh was imposed as fine regarding food adulteration during the last year by the Drug and Food Control Department.