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FSSAI has a new strategy to do away with WHO's content diktat

New Delhi: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has found a new way to 'deal' with WHO's permissible contents of fat, sugar, salt in packaged foods as the national food regulator has prepared its own set of guidelines in this regard by increasing the limits of all such contents by eight times above from the international standards to allow the sale of 'unhealthy' packaged products without any content restrictions.

As per the sources, in its draft Labelling and Display Regulation, which was released two years ago, the apex food regulator had completely adopted the sodium and sugar standards set by the WHO and had relaxed the standards in the case of fat.

Surprisingly, as per the sources, the adopted regulation was not implemented due to the 'interference' of the packaged food industry as if the regulations would have been implemented, about 90 per cent of the packaged food items would go out of the shelves after getting the unhealthy category tag. It has been estimated in a FSSAI study in December 2020.

After industry raised its apprehensions over the impact of the food regulators regulations, the FSSAI constituted a working group to review the standards taken in the draft Labelling and Display Regulations.

However, as per the sources, the Working Group has prepared a new set of guidelines in which the permissible limit of salt, sugar, and fat has been relaxed up to eight times as compared to earlier limits and it would soon be included in the new draft after seeking suggestions from stakeholders.

With this, even if the contents like fat, sodium (salt) and sugar in our food would be many times higher than the international standards, the packaged food items would be considered in the category of healthy products. The FSSAI is planning to implement the revised norms by November this year. The Working Group has suggested increasing the permissible limit of sugar in chocolates to 35 gram/100 grams, up to 50 grams in hard candy, 40 grams in soft candy, 20 grams in cakes and no limit in bread, bun, etc against the permissible limit of 6 grams/100 grams by WHO and FSSAI.

The Working Group has also advocated increasing salt contents in snacks, chips to 400 milligram/100 gram against the WHO's standard of 250 milligram/100 gram. In the case of saturated fat, Working Group has increased the percentage of calories in cheese, paneer, etc by 15 per cent against the WHO's recommended 10 per cent saturated fat of the total energy that varies from product to product.

The food industry giants are seeking relaxation in these regulations as they are that feared that their products may not get manufactured if these standards come into effect. The market size of packaged food in the country is more than Rs 2.5 lakh crore.

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