Firms to disclose GM contents in processed food
Packaged food companies will soon have to disclose details of genetically modified (GM) ingredients used in processed food on labels.
The country’s food regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is working on the final guidelines on the labelling of GM foods, its CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal said.
“Genetically modified items are being used in a lot of processed foods. Consumers have the right to know which products may have GM items. The scientific panel has already started work on this, and we’ll soon finalise the labelling norms,” said Agarwal.
Earlier this month, officials of FSSAI and members of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which regulates GM foods in India, had a meeting on the issue.
FSSAI has the responsibility of regulating GM products used in processed food but those GM products have to be approved by GEAC, according to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
Companies are now not required to declare the presence of GM ingredients in a food item in India, and a lot of imported processed foods have such ingredients.
Last month, GEAC approved commercial cultivation of GM mustard in India which the ministry of environment, forest and climate change will have to clear. To date, India only allows commercial production of GM Bt cotton. While Bt brinjal has the approval, the government did not introduce this due to widespread protests against the technology.
Till recently, India did not allow import of GM foods. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha last July, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that the customs can clear GM food products after necessary approval by FSSAI, and the food regulator had not cleared import of any GM food. According to norms, import of GM foods requires prior approval from the GEAC.
In a separate development, FSSAI allowed import of 72 special food items meant for children with ‘inborn errors of metabolism’ last week. These food items can only be consumed under the supervision of healthcare professionals.
Pawan Agarwal: New rules