The packaged food products do not have to print an expiry date on the labels as
is required in the case of pharmaceutical products. What the manufacturers of packaged
food products are required to do is to just print "Best before Use" along with manufacturing
date on the labels.An official from the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration
confirmed this to FnB News.
The official said that the packaged food items produced in the country do not have
to print an Expiry Date. The existing rules mandate that the manufacturers only
need to print a "Best Before Use" on the label for selling in the retail market.
By printing Best Before Use on the label, manufacturers of the food products cannot
be held responsible if the products sold after date become unuseable. This inadequacy
in the rules is definitely a cause of concern as India does not have a regulation
for monitoring the shelf-life of a product. In fact, this loophole in the law is
being exploited by a large number of manufacturers in the country by selling products
after 'best before use" date.
The FDA official said, "The mandate is simply to have a 'Best Before' date. Thus
even if the date expires, there is no regulation that says that the product is unworthy
of consumption." It may be recalled that labelling laws for food products under
the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, were modified on March 19, 2009,
to include nutritional facts (per 100 gm / 100 ml or per serving) about products
on their package labels.
However, one important aspect of labelling, which by all means was overlooked, was
the overhaul of the "Manufacturing and Expiry Date" on the label of a packaged food
item. Further, the PFA Act, 1954, which is soon to be replaced by the Food Safety
and Standards Act , 2006, simply asked for a "Best Before" date, thus hinting that
products crossing this time-span could not be declared unfit for consumption. Hence,
manufacturers used to continue selling their products in the market beyond that
date simply because there was no expiry date regulation.
And it is not just about Expiry Dates, there are other discrepancies as well when
it comes to labelling. For instance, an audit carried out by FnB News in one of
the biggest food retail malls in Mumbai, pointed out that even though the manufacturing
date was printed, the label had been washed out on some of the packaged food items,
thus giving an unclear presentation of the data printed. On more than one food packages
the year 2011 of the manufacturing date had the last number "1" missing. Thus, this
audit pointed out a clear contravention of the regulation from the Act which reads,
"Contents on the label shall be clear, prominent, indelible, and readily legible
by the consumer under normal condition of purchase and use."
As for other discrepancies in labelling, an FDA official stated, "In our raid in
one of the godowns that stored "dragonfly" energy drink, three areas of contraventions
were found. The raid which took place on December 5, 2009, revealed that the "Best
Before" date had surpassed on April 16, 2009. Yet, the importers conveniently erased
the manufacturing and the expiry date information and reprinted fresh dates. In
a few samples, the importers even erased the "Best Before" date to keep the consumers
The official added, "dragonfly is manufactured by the UAE-based Union Beverages
Factory and imported into India by Mumbai-based Kamjig Exim Pvt. Ltd. Around 29,410
cans worth Rs 12 lakh have been seized. Also, an FIR has been lodged against the
company at Dongri Police Station in Mumbai, FIR No. (154/2009)." While the Expiry
Date issue is surrounded in a haze, thankfully, all packaged food items in Maharashtra,
at least, have the 'nutritional facts' label in place, according to the FDA.
An official said, "While credit could not be taken away from the manufacturers for
a 100% compliance where representing nutritional facts was concerned, whether these
labels actually had contents as per the label reading was a challenging task for
the FDA to monitor. It was interesting to note that in the 1,200 f&b samples collected
over the last one year, we did not find a single violation." In the case of nutritional
facts, it is worth noticing that the there is no provision that says that any nutrient
that exceeds a particular limit is unhealthy to consume.
The Supreme Court has sought response from the Centre on why there should not be
a complete ban on the use of plastics in the country which at present is limited
to tobacco products.
“The Plastics Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, notified by the MoEF
( ministry of environment and forests) on February 4, 2011, are discriminatory,
arbitrary and capricious,” claimed the Delhi Study Group, the petitioner who challenged
the government rules of banning use of plastics only in gutkha, tobacco and pan
masala alone and not all items, especially, food.
The petitioners said that the “Rules have been issued only against the tobacco products,
but plastic materials used for packaging in other items have been deliberately left
out which is violative of Articles 14 (fundamental right to equality) and 21 (fundamental
right to life and liberty) of the Constitution of India.”
“Our contention is that the rule should cover all food items, like all packaged
bhujias from The Haldiram's, Bikaners and others. Packing them in plastic is as
hazardous as packing tobacco. Milk, which is produced and sold in printed pouches,
is also harmful for health. It could be replaced by glass bottles as was done a
few years earlier. Today, 130 lakh tonnes of plastic is being used every month for
packing milk, which should be immediately stopped.”
A bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice A K Ganguly issued notice to the Centre
on a PIL seeking the court's direction to impose a complete ban on the use of plastics.
RIKILT, part of Wageningen UR, the Netherlands, has developed a method for verifying
whether an egg is organic with the help of analytical techniques.
The method works by reading a ‘fingerprint’ of components of the egg. The fingerprints
of authentic organic products are compared to a broad selection of similar regular
products, and the results are recorded in a database. The researchers at RIKILT
have developed a statistical model which compares the fingerprint of a new sample
to those of samples in the database. This makes it possible to determine whether
the makeup of this new product is closer to that of organic or regular products.
With eggs, RIKILT particularly examines the fingerprint of the yellow pigments in
eggs, called carotenoids. It has been demonstrated that there are enough variations
in these fingerprints to enable a clear distinction between organic and regular
eggs. The fingerprints are identified with the help of a separation technique called
high-pressure liquid chromatography, or HPLC. The database currently contains data
from eggs from seventy-five organic egg producers (more than half of the organic
egg producers in the Netherlands) and around seventy-five producers of other types
of eggs, including free-range, deep-litter, and battery. Researchers are currently
working on further developing these methods in order to identify other products,
including organic animal feed, wild as opposed to farmed fish, and sustainably-produced
To ensure that the edibles, including snacks and others, especially brought in from
Myanmar without any labels, are safe for human consumption, a delegation of experts
from the Centre will hold a two-day awareness programme on food safety and quality
at Imphal from tomorrow.
Though there is as yet no restrictions on the sale of the unlabelled snacks and
other edible items brought in from across the border, there is increasing doubt
that such edible items may be hazardous to one's health as safety norms such as
specifying the month and year of manufacture, expiry date and chemical contents
are not adhered to.
Adding to the confusion is the presence of a large number of canned food brought
in from Myanmar, like tinnned fish, sweets, pickles etc, which have labels but are
not understood to others as they are not written in English .
There have been cases of large number of people being hospitalised after consuming
fermented soya beans, which are chemically treated and meant for agricultural purposes.
The fermented soya beans are locally known as Hawaichar.
What is more, there is no mechanism to check the quality and hygiene of meat and
other eatables sold in the State, which are hazardous to one's health. Considering
the growing concern for food safety and impending changes in India's food regulations,
experts from the Ministry of Food Processing Industry of India (MoFPI) and Quality
Council of India (QCI) will conduct the programme, official sources said.
Its objective is to emphasize the need to ensure food safety in the food businesses,
the sources said adding that awareness on the latest developments in food sector
to cover food safety, quality, packaging and regulations would also be highlighted
in it. Practicing and aspiring entrepreneurs in food business, production and quality
control executives from food manufacturing units are the targeted audiences of the
The units will lay emphasis on the micro, small and medium scale organizations associated
with food processing, fruits and vegetables processing, diary, bakery and confectionary
, manufacturing and catering, hospitality industry , teachers and students of food
technology. Notwithstanding the induction of a Government food safety officer each
in the nine districts as well as a Food Inspector in Imphal Municipal Council (IMC)
, construction of a food testing laboratory at Lamphelpat in the heart of Imphal
is yet to be completed. Once the construction is completed, equipments for the laboratory
would be installed, sources said adding that currently food samples are being sent
for testing outside the State leading to huge expenses on the State exchequer.
Scientific panels set up by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)
have been reconstituted earlier this month with only independent scientific experts
on them, following a recent directive from the Supreme Court.
The composition of these panels — that deal with regulatory issues such as pesticide
and antibiotic residues in food, genetically modified organisms, functional foods,
nutraceuticals and biological hazards – had been challenged in the Supreme Court
by the Centre for Public Interest. Their contention was that “some members of the
panel appointed by the Food Authority are not independent scientific expert and
their appointment is not in consonance with Section 13 (1) of the Food Safety and
The reconstitution of scientific panels with only independent experts and not representatives
of the industry has been done in compliance with the Apex Court's order, an FSSAI
source confirmed. The earlier committee had representatives from large food and
consumer goods majors such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Marico, Hindustan Unilever, Britannia
Explaining the rationale behind the Public Interest Litigation that lead to the
directive, Mr Prashant Bhushan, lawyer for the petitioner, told Business Line that
regulatory bodies should not have industry representatives as that brings in a conflict
of interest. The judgment of a regulatory committee could be influenced by industry
representatives, he said.
The original composition of the scientific panels had come under the scanner, in
the course of a petition related to chemical additives in soft drinks, when the
FSSAI said that the scientific panel would look into concerns that were being raised,
he said. Responding to a query that industry representatives could bring to the
table scientific knowledge that may not be in public domain, Mr Bhushan clarified,
that the scientific committees could take industry opinion, but the final regulatory
decision should be made from the point of view of public interest.
The Delhi Government is likely to change its policy on wine and separate it from
liquor beginning May 1, 2011. A new policy, in this regard, which will also allow
selling of wine at special government shops, supermarkets and shops in the national
capital, is awaited, according to Jagdish Holkar, president, All-India Wine Producers
Association, and chairman, Flamingo Wines.
A delegation from the association met Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit and union
agriculture minister Sharad Pawar in this regard. The delegation also sought the
latter's intervention in the various problems faced by wine manufacturers and grape
framers in the country in view of surplus production and dwindling demand.
Holkar said that the wine production in the country had come down by 50 per cent
to 75 lakh litre this season compared to 1.50 crore litre last season, But efforts
were being made to salvage the situation, he said. The association president explained,
"Owing to the surplus production that led to a huge demand-supply gap, farmers had
reduced the grape cultivation from 9,000 acre last season to 6,000 acre this season.
However, the farmers, as against a price of Rs 10-12 per kg last season, are getting
Rs 25-30 per kg this season."
Holkar pointed out that while Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Goa were the major markets
in the country, wine manufacturers were not able to tap fully in the Delhi market
because of the entry point barrier - company licence fee of Rs 5 lakh - in that
state. "This fee proved to be a major hurdle, especially, for smaller manufacturers
and farmers. Hence, our delegation met Sheila Dixit and Sharad Pawar. The meeting
has proved fruitful and it is likely that the fee will be reduced to just Rs 1 to
1.5 lakh. A declaration is likely in this regard on May 1, 2011."
Holkar also stated that while Indian wine manufacturers were being charged such
a heavy fees, foreign ones were getting concessions, which was also brought to the
notice of both Dixit and Pawar.
Other factors that led to the glut in the wine market include inter-state duties,
the global recession, drop in exports and dwindling tourism in view of the Mumbai
attacks. The result was the wine industry was faced with loans amounting to Rs 500
crore. The association also urged the minister for restructuring of these loans
by taking into account the nature of the product and an appropriate gestation period
so that the industry was able to tide over the situation.
When the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is already busy looking
at the nitty-gritty of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which is scheduled
for implementation in March/April this year, union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad
has assigned another task to the Authority of finding out whether smokeless tobacco
can be brought into the category of food items.
"Can smokeless and chewing tobacco, India's major public health problem, be called
food items and then be tested and asked to reveal contents?" is what the union health
ministry now wants to find out. According to a report published in The Times of
India, the ministry has called a crucial consultation with the FSSAI, the nodal
body to implement the FSS Act 2006 on April 4 and 5. The Act replaced the earlier
Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954 in which smokeless tobacco was not considered
a food item. The ministry now wants to see that if a new clause can be brought into
the Act declaring smokeless tobacco as food that people eat.
According to the FSSAI CEO,
Dr V N Gaur , "All sections of the Act have already been notified.
In a few weeks time, we will notify all the rules under the new FSS Act 2006, so
that it starts to get implemented. At present, the Act clearly says tobacco is not
a food item." He added, "However,if the ministry wants to define it as a food item,
a new clause has to be brought and put into the Act. The PFA and the FSS Act say
that anything eaten is a food item."
The ministry officials said at present, smokeless tobacco comes under no particular
category. According to them, the rules to regulate tobacco use aren't proving effective.
"If we bring it under a food item, smokeless tobacco items will have to be tested
for their ingredients and thus prove how harmful they are," the officials said.
The minister, by suggesting the inclusion of tobacco in food, is certainly overlooking
the consequences which the country is likely to witness if such a proposal in accepted.
Till now, tobacco has been promoted as being "injurious to health" and bringing
it in the food category, will bring in a psychological acceptance among the masses
and allow the item to evade all the tax rules which are currently applicable in
the sale and production of tobacco. The stance, as assumed to be a conflict of interest
by many, indicates of the inexplicit interest of the government to woo the tobacco
TOKYO | FUKUSHIMA: Radioactive iodine exceeding the limit considered safe for infants
has been detected in Tokyo's tap water amid mounting concerns over food safety in
tsunami-hit Japan, which is struggling to contain an atomic crisis at its crippled
Fukushima nuclear power plant. The detection of high radiation was made at a water
purification plant in the Japanese capital, prompting the Tokyo metropolitan government
to issue a warning on Wednesday that babies should not drink tap water.
Local authorities said 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine were detected per litre
of water against the limit of 100 becquerels at a water purification plant on Tuesday
in the Kanamachi district of Katsushika Ward, Kyodo news agency reported. But the
amount of the radioactive substance detected at the purification plant is lower
than the 300-becquerel limit for people other than infants, it said. In a survey
of its three purification plants, the metropolitan government also detected 32 becquerels
of the substance at a plant in Hamura in western Tokyo. However, the substance was
not detected at another plant in Asaka, Saitama Prefecture.
Tokyo authorities said infants in the central 23 wards, plus 5 adjacent cities,
should refrain from drinking tap water, national broadcaster NHK reported. Premier
Naoto Kan, meanwhile, warned consumers against eating leafy vegetables such as spinach
harvested in Fukushima, as radioactive materials far exceeding legal limits were
found in vegetables in the region devastated by the March 11 earthquake.
Kan instructed Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato to ask people, including the prefecture's
own residents, to refrain from eating vegetables such as cabbage, the "komatsuna"
leaf vegetable, broccoli and cauliflower. The order, which is based on findings
by the health ministry that said radioactive materials in 11 Fukushima-produced
vegetables surpassed legal limits set under the food sanitation law, will take effect
"for the time being," said government officials.
It is the first time the government has issued a restriction on food intake in line
with a special law for dealing with the nuclear disaster in Japan, whose Pacific
coast in the northeast was shaken again by strong earthquakes today, including one
measuring 6 on the Richter Scale. Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said the warning
was issued by the Prime Minister as a precautionary measure and denied the radiation
levels could pose an immediate risk to human health.