New FSSAI Norms to Make Foods, Drinks Pack­ag­ing Safe

FO­CUS ON QUAL­ITY Guide­lines to ad­dress con­cerns over con­tam­i­na­tion due to sub-stan­dard ma­te­ri­als, make food cos more ac­count­able

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New Delhi: In­dia’s food reg­u­la­tor will soon set new norms for pouches, foil con­tain­ers, bot­tles and boxes that are used to pack­age food and bev­er­ages to ad­dress con­cerns over con­tam­i­na­tion aris­ing from sub-stan­dard ma­te­rial and the print­ing on them.

“There will be sep­a­rate reg­u­la­tions for pack­ag­ing, for which the draft reg­u­la­tions will come out soon,” said Pawan Ku­mar Agar­wal, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Food Safety and Stan­dards Au­thor­ity of In­dia (FSSAI). The new stan­dards are in­tended to make food com­pa­nies more ac­count­able. The cur­rent norms, adopted from the Bu­reau of In­dian Stan­dards, fo­cus more on la­belling than on pack­ag­ing. The reg­u­la­tor now plans to frame its own set of bench­marks to en­sure that all pack­ag­ing used in food and drinks is safe and can be mon­i­tored.

In­dia’s food pack­ag­ing mar­ket is es­ti­mated to reach $18 bil­lion in 2020 from $12 bil­lion in 2016, led by fruits and veg­eta­bles. Apart from con­ve­nience, pack­ag­ing helps to re­duce food wastage by en­hanc­ing their shelf life.

Ac­cord­ing to the present norms, alu­minium, cop­per, brass, plas­tic and tin can be used for pack­ag­ing and should con­form to Bu­reau of In­dian Stan­dards spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Con­tain­ers that are rusty, chipped or per­fo­rated are deemed un­fit.

The re-use of tin and plas­tic con­tain­ers is dis­al­lowed, es­pe­cially for pack­ag­ing ed­i­ble oil and fat and there are spe­cific rules for pack­ag­ing of prod­ucts such as milk, milk prod­ucts, ed­i­ble oil, fruits and veg­eta­bles, canned meat and drink­ing wa­ter.

The new guide­lines will be based

on a study con­ducted by the FSSAI and the In­dian In­sti­tute of Pack­ag­ing, an au­ton­o­mous body op­er­at­ing un­der the min­istry of com­merce and in­dus­try, on the qual­ity of food pack­ag­ing ma­te­rial man­u­fac­tured in the coun­try. The study was com­mis­sioned be­cause the reg­u­la­tor was of the

view that there is a grow­ing need to as­sess whether chem­i­cals in food pack­ag­ing pose any health and safety risks and whether the cur­rent reg­u­la­tions ad­e­quately man­age them.

“Dur­ing the study, we found that 100% of the sam­ples did not pass the tests. In some sam­ples, the colo- ur was com­ing out of the pack­ag­ing ma­te­rial. We have sub­mit­ted the re­port to FSSAI,” said NC Saha, di­rec­tor of the In­dian In­sti­tute of Pack­ag­ing in Mum­bai.

Food pack­ag­ing ma­te­rial is also a source of heavy met­als such as ar­senic, bar­ium, cad­mium, chromium, lead, mer­cury and se­leni- um, which may con­tam­i­nate the pack­aged food prod­uct and can be dan­ger­ous in higher quan­ti­ties, he added.

“We are fully com­mit­ted to com­ply­ing with these new pack­ag­ing norms once they are im­ple­mented,” said a spokesper­son for Nestlé In­dia. “We have in place strict food qual­ity and pack­ag­ing norms, in­clud­ing qual­ity checks at the dif­fer­ent stages of our man­u­fac­tur­ing process.”

As part of the study, sam­ples were tested from the or­gan­ised and un­or­gan­ised food sec­tors in New Delhi, Haryana, Ra­jasthan, Ut­tarak­hand, Ut­tar Pradesh, West Ben­gal, Goa, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra, Kar­nataka and Tamil Nadu for trans­fer of chem­i­cal con­tam­i­nants into foods. Also checked were the level of heavy met­als in plas­tics used in pack­ag­ing of food, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and drink­ing wa­ter.

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