The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s apex food regulator, has issued draft notification for front-of-pack labeling to discourage consumers from buying foods that are packed in sugar, salt and fat. , for which pre-packaged food carrying a – 0 to 5 – star graphic next to the brand name.
Like the star-rating system for energy efficiency of electronic products, the ‘Indian Nutrition Rating (INR)’ will give a 0-star rating to unhealthy foods and a 5-star rating to the healthiest.
The draft notification comes even as several health experts have questioned the star-rating system, arguing that the warning symbol on foods high in sugar, salt and fat is more likely to discourage people from consuming them.
According to the draft notification, the items will be given a score based on the contribution of energy and per 100 content of saturated fat, sugar, sodium, fruits and vegetables (FV), nuts, legumes, and millets (NLM), dietary fiber, and protein. Gram of solid or 100 ml liquid food item. Solid foods with scores above 25 will be given 0.5 stars and those with scores less than – (minus)11 will be given 5 stars.
“The INR system rates the overall nutrition profile for packaged food with a rating from star (least healthy) to 5 star (healthiest). More stars indicate that the food product is in a better position to meet the daily human need for nutrients. The logo shall be displayed on the front of the pack close to the name of the product or the brand name,” the notification said.
Although not mandatory, the notification states that food businesses may add explanatory information next to the star-rating logo detailing the energy, sugar, saturated fat and salt content. To create a star-rating logo for a product, food businesses need to submit nutritional profiles of the respective products on FSSAI’s FoSCoS (Food Safety Compliance System) portal.
Food items such as milk and milk products, whey, butter oil, ghee, vegetable oils and fats, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen meat, poultry, fish, flour, and sweeteners will not have to display a star rating. According to the notification, carbonated drinks without any energy or sugar will also not be eligible for declaration of rating.
People have been asked to send their objections or suggestions to the Chief Executive Officer of FSSAI in the authority’s office or email at [email protected] for 60 days.
News bulletin , Click to get the best interpreters of the day delivered to your inbox
With controversy over the type of front-of-pack labelling, FSSAI had decided to go with a star-rating system based on a survey it had commissioned IIMs with a sample size of 20,500 people. Experts such as Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), have questioned the findings of the IIM report, saying a warning label is likely to be more effective.
A position paper by experts released earlier this year noted that consumption patterns had changed in several Latin American countries that had applied such warning labels, and that Chile reduced consumption of sugary drinks by 24%. had registered a decline. It said that a meta-analysis of 100 studies published last year indicated that nutrient warning labels are more effective than traffic lights and Nutri-Score labels.