FSSAI’s front-of-package labeling proposal will seriously harm MSMEs in the packaged food sector: trade body

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Ease of doing business for MSMEs: The umbrella body of trade associations and sellers Indian Sellers Collective has opposed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) proposed FOPNL (INR) regulations on nutrition labeling on the front of the packaging (Indian Nutrition Rating). The representative body said on Wednesday that the FOPNL would cause ethnic Indian foods to be classified as unhealthy, leading to serious business losses for MSMEs in the manufacture and sale of packaged foods. The body said it would also open the floodgates for Western packaged foods to capture Indian markets.

The FSSAI published in September this year the draft regulations for the FOPNL which proposes a star rating system to provide consumers with nutritional information on packaged food products. Odds will be displayed on front tags once settlement is finalized. Packaged items will be rated from one to five stars and therefore “good food”, “not good food”, etc. according to their salt, sugar and fat content.

Since traditional Indian cuisine such as bhujiya, dhokla and murukku etc. use salt, sugar and fats, for various scientific and customary reasons, these items will be ostensibly marked as “unhealthy” as per mathematical calculation proposed and the expression of the star-rating system, leading consumers to reject them, the body said.

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On the other hand, global multinational food companies using substitutes and chemicals will easily alter the nutritional composition of their food products to achieve a better health rating, the collective added.

For example, even though a food called Rice Crispy Cereal has a lot of sugar, it can be upgraded to improve its star rating by reconstituting it and adding ingredients like nuts, artificial vitamins and minerals. In comparison, traditional Indian products like poha, upma, khakda made by local Indian makers will not be able to change the constitution, as it will completely change their taste, he explained.

“Major distributors and retailers that thrive on collaborations with multinationals and big food companies will continue to sell reconstituted western packaged foods in India as the adoption of FONPL will continue to destroy the market for traditional Indian packaged foods. However, the millions of small independent vendors who largely depend on makers of MSMEs and traditional packaged Indian snacks for a living, will have no recourse, thus threatening their very survival,” said Dhairyashil Patil, Chairman of the distribution organization All India Consumer Products Distributors. Federation in a press release.

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