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Food sector updates - Week 4

Key Developments:

  • FSSAI has protested the Bombay High Court’s decision to permit export of Maggi noodles, claiming that FSSAI Chief should have been consulted by the Court
  • Saubhik Chakrabarti (ET) has advocated for Government of India to compensate Nestlé for damages to its business in India, while Nestlé informed FSSAI that the company should have been accorded an opportunity to appeal FSSAI’s test results prior to the ban of its products
  • The food crisis has spurred discord within government, with Union Consumer Affairs minister defending FSSAI’s actions, and Union Food Processing Industries Minister criticising the same
  • While Maharashtra state government is inspecting Haldiram’s products for contamination following US FDA notices, Gujarat government is extending its ban on ITC’s Yippee noodle. Small food processing companies have rushed to fill retail spaces previously occupied by MNC branded products
  • R Jagannathan, First Post, and Pankaj Vohra, Mint have criticised the government for inadequately executing food safety laws, while former FSSAI officials have accused FSSAI of favouring multinational companies, and for functioning ineffectively in the absence of a full-time Chairperson
  • Nestlé India plans to contest in court that the Calcutta lab that found high levels of lead in Maggi products lacked the requisite accreditation
  • While Union Food Processing Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, has called for greater transparency in food safety laws, FSSAI officials are now stating that the recent exercise into food contamination was conducted to ensure compliance and quality of food products. The officials are also stating that Nestlé may bring Maggi back into market once the company addresses FSSAI’s concerns
  • Significant media coverage has focused on the Bombay High Court hearing on Nestlé’s petition against the ban of its products. Due to an affidavit filed by FSSAI requesting the Court to recall the June 30 order, the final hearing on the case has been postponed to 17 July. FSSAI council has claimed previous batches of Maggi products are being destroyed rather than exported, contrary to the Court’s earlier directives, thereby indicating Nestlé’s admission that the products are not safe for consumption. FSSAI has also accused the company of destroying evidence
  • An ET story by Shambhavi Anand has stated that Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s criticism of FSSAI followed a letter by All India Food Processors' Association (AIFPA), which claimed that the food processing industry is abandoning diversification
    plans in India as a result of FSSAI’s actions
  • Government is expected to introduce a new Consumer Protection Bill in the Monsoon Parliament Session. The Bill will propose severe penalties for proven cases of food poisoning
  • Experts’ warnings to consumers regarding packaged food consumption are increasing. While the former director of CSIR labs, G Thyagarajan has stated that the public needs to grow more aware of the contents of its food products, and Prerna Sharma, a Mumbai-based market analyst, has stated that about a quarter of the edible foot items sold in India are intentionally adulterated. Maharashtra FDA has also stated the milk may contain starch
  • Inefficiencies in the government regulatory machinery are also being revealed in the media, as 5 of FSSAI’s 12 recognised labs have been found to lack accreditation. Editorials in The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle have also called for the development of a
    common yardstick to test food products produced by different companies. Posts for health, food safety, and drug inspectors have also been found vacant in Punjab government
  • The National Green Tribunal has directed FSSAI and other government agencies to devise efficient systems for managing municipal plastic waste. Government has been requested to review regulations for plastic use by companies for packaging

News updates:

Now, FDA lays its eyes on packaged water, The Times of India, 17 July 2015

With the six months extension for proper labelling of packaged drinking water coming to an end on July 1, the department of food and drugs administration has trained its guns on packaged drinking water bottles on sale at retail outlets and eating joints in the state

A unique BIS certification number is given to every manufacturer which has to appear on the labelling of the water bottle

The sudden boom in the mineral water market accompanied by the thriving tourism industry has encouraged players to enter
the bottled mineral water segment

After Maggi, Top Ramen in the soup, The Asian Age,17 July 2015

The Commissionerate of Food Safety is gearing up to press criminal charges against Indo-Nissin, the manufacturer of Top Ramen noodles, following lab reports proving that the product is substandard and unsafe

The sample of Top Ramen was collected from Alappuzha district following suspicion. Mr. Joseph Shaji George, assistant commissioner (enforcement), Alappuzha, said that unlike Maggi, the lab result showed that the product is substandard

Accreditation still awaits FSSAI labs, The Business Standard, 16 July 2015

Five out of FSSAI’s 12 ‘recognised labs’ lack accreditation from the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). Experts state that this may lead to legal complications in Maggi-like cases in the future

Maggi noodles were tested in a referral lab, which claims it didn’t need accreditation from the NABL. Nestlé’s counsel had argued
at the Bombay High Court on 14 July that the tests carried out on Maggi were done so in non-accredited laboratories

Presence of lead, other metals in foods: FSSAI issues draft regulations, FnB News, 16 July 2015

Food Safety & Standards Authority of India has issued draft notification to amend the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulations, 2011. With this amendment, the authority has proposed to specify the level of toxin metal contaminants including lead, arsenic, tin, and cadmium in foods

FSSAI has invited public comments on the regulations in the official gazette

The article includes a table outlining the maximum permissible limit for lead in food products

Overhaul testing procedures, The Asian Age, Deccan Chronicle, 16 July 2015

The people of India need to be assured that they are not poisoning or harming themselves by eating packaged foods

A common yardstick needs to be developed for testing all food products, be they from multinational or Indian companies

Nestlé asks Bombay HC for time to reply to Maharashtra FDA affidavit, Mint, 15 July 2015

Nestlé India Ltd has asked the Bombay high court for time to reply to the Maharashtr Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affidavit on the ongoing Maggi noodles case

The two-judge bench of Justices V.M. Kanade and B.P. Colabawala will hear the matter on 17 July, which will be the final hearing.
The bench did not give any new direction on the matter and said that all the arguments will be heard on Friday

FSSAI urges HC to repose curbs on Maggi exports, The Business Standard, 15 July 2015

FSSAI Council has urged the Bombay High Court to recall its June 30 order allowing Nestlé to export Maggi, contending that the purpose of the last order was hardly served with Nestlé manufacturing fresh batches for export

Nestlé India’s counsel Iqbal Chagla contested FSSAI’s view that Maggi was unfit for consumption in India, arguing that the product had been given a clean chit by countries abroad and said that laboratories where noodle samples tested positive for excessive lead content “lacked accreditation” and were “inconsistent and unreliable”

FSSAI’s counsel urged the High Court to set aside its June 12 order, which asked the food regulator to give Nestlé a 72-hour notice to appropriately defend its case

A spokesperson of Nestlé has stated that the statements made in court by the FSSAI counsel were unsubstantiated, that Nestlé
has cooperated and provided information to FSSAI

Maggi tested in substandard labs, Nestlé tells HC, The Hindustan Times, 15 July 2015

Nestlé India told the Bombay high court on Tuesday that their Maggi noodles product — banned in India for containing excessive lead — was tested in laboratories that were substandard, not notified to test for lead, and lacked accreditation from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

FSSAI Counsel Mahmood Pracha said Nestlé India needs to be regulated, pointing out how Nestlé India has not disclosed how the
product was being recalled and told the court that Nestlé India has stated that the product is safe on its website

What the mindless Maggi ban shows: The weak state strikes again, First Post, 14 July 2015

The core issue is the wayward implementation of the law by a weak state that is unable to regulate firmly and fairly

Strong supervision and enforcement of the law related to food and health safety are needed, along with testing systems with adequate manpower to do the job consistently and fairly

Change the food labelling rules, Mint, 14 July 2015

In a country like India, where the focus has always been on infectious diseases, the added concern of non-infectious diseases like celiac disease and food allergies is daunting

For those suffering from diseases like celiac diseases and food allergies within India, gluten-free substitute items are either not available, or very expensive, or not validated due to the absence of legislation

Despite a draft notification issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that sets out the label declaration requirements for gluten and non-gluten foods, labeling standards that are uniform and clear are needed to enable changes in the way ingredients are listed on food items, including gluten and allergens

Harsimrat Kaur Badal seeks transparency in food safety laws, The Times of India, 14 July 2015

The Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Monday stressed transparency in implementation of food safety standard laws in the country while justifying her statement that 'food inspector raj' will impact "Make in India" campaign

Speaking with reporters at Jayapur in Varanasi, the Union Minister for Food Processing said that, “there should be one yardstick
for food products, which is possible by maintaining transparency in working of regulatory bodies like the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)”

Just want food companies to follow law, FSSAI says, The Times of India, 14 July 2015

In the wake of increased food safety awareness, an FSSAI senior official has stated that, “the exercise is merely to ensure that
every food item that is sold in the country is of good quality and is complying with the law of the land,” and that all action is being taken in favor of the consumer. He also stated that Nestlé can take corrective actions to address the concerns and meet the requirements under the law to bring Maggi back into the market

Ensuring food safety: Can we learn from others?, The Tribune, 13 July 2015

Apart from Maggi, there are innumerable packaged food brands that demand attention and check by enforcement authorities. The responsibility of ensuring safe food must rest with all, including the producers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers

In other countries, the private sector is also involved in enforcing safety standards with the US FDA doing a commendable job
and EU maintaining the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RAFFS). As India
faces an increased demand for packaged foods, the mechanisms to manage food
safety have to be upgraded as well as expanded

What action on adulteration: HC asks food authority, The Hindustan Times, 13 July 2015

All eateries, including small street side joints to cafes and well known restaurants, are required to apply for a food business operator (FBO) license

The Bombay High Court has directed the FSSAI to prominently display all applications for approval, all consumer complaints and
all inspection reports of products and restaurants on its website

 

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