Indian Sellers Collective, an umbrella body of trade associations and sellers across the country, had released the findings of a study of favourite Indian foods as per the guidelines of the star rating method under the FOPNL (Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling) regulation proposed by FSSAI.
Findings of the study reveal shocking flaws in the method, as a large section of delicacies that Indians have loved to eat and gift for centuries, would be instantly made to look unfit for human consumption. This is because of the narrow and unscientific lens through which the proposed star-rating system evaluates foods.
On September 13, 2022, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) released a Draft Notification amending the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling & Display). Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling (FOPNL) is part of this amendment. Under FOPNL there will be an INR (Indian Nutrition Rating System) and foods will be given ratings based on their nutritional information per 100 grams or 100 ML. The ratings will be from a half star or a 0.5 rating meaning “least health” to five stars being the “healthiest”.
Traditional delicacies from different regions of India will be badly impacted by the ranking. For example, the North Indian Mathura Peda which is also a religious offering will get 0.5 star, and Patisa will get a 1 star; Delicacies popular in South India like Mysore Pak will get a 0.5 star while delicacies becoming popular across India like Peanut Chikki and Instant Poha will get a 0.5 star. Arguably, the most famous Indian sweet and a must-have during Diwali, Soan Papdi will get 1 star.
Abhay Raj Mishra, Member & National Coordinator, Indian Sellers Collective, said, “Indian foods have evolved over centuries and are naturally designed to suit climatic conditions and genetic composition of Indians. People in the coastal areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Kerala require foods rich in salt as they sweat more because of excessive humidity. Similarly farming population in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana need foods high in fats and salt to keep allowing them to work excessively for long hours in heat. The proposed
regulation disregards these facts, as it is a copy and paste regulation from the west. FOPNL will systematically make western foods look good and will gradually destroy traditional Indian foods and
The proposed Indian Nutrition Rating System does not factor into the consumption patterns and habits of Indians, as it ranks all food items on 100 grams basis, making the method totally unscientific. In
practice, most of these Indian foods getting an unfair rating are consumed in smaller single serves of say 20 grams, like in the case of traditional sweets like Peda or Mysore Pak.
Consumers will perceive Indian traditional Foods to be “unhealthy” vis-a-vis western food which will have equal if not more sugar, fat and salt content. There is a real danger of discouragement and disappearance of Indian traditional delicacies due to the onslaught of western foods. Western Foods of MNCs will get better ratings by following processes like reconstitution and substitution which are
being granted exemption in the new system.
Accordingly, western packaged food companies having foods with high or similar amount of salt and sugar will easily modify the nutrient composition of their food products to secure a better health star
rating. For example, a chocolate health drink solid will have 40 grams of sugar per 100 grams but the same drink when reconstituted will only be shown to have 8.4 grams of sugar per 100 grams and will secure a
rating of 3.5 stars. In comparison, a traditional Indian food, Instant Poha with 11 grams of sugar per 100 grams will get a rank of 0.5 or half a star.
Dhairyashil Patil, President, All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF), said, “FOPNL will impact the Indian packaged food MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise) and the millions of workers
dependent on this traditional industry. For example, Bhujia is a cottage industry in Bikaner, Rajasthan, and provides employment to millions of people in the region, especially women. Indian Foods with lower star ranking and classified as unhealthy will be rejected by Indian consumers on just face value of the product and they will rather favour supposedly healthier western food, which will be fortified and chemically substituted by MNCs to secure a better ranking.”
India’s food processing Industry has been making significant growth and there is a grand design to capture this lucrative market by western packaged food companies. These Western MNCs are collaborating with large retail companies and big distributors to capture the market and westernize the Indian palate. The FOPNL will be a key instrument towards discrediting Indian cuisine towards this end. This will also sound the death knell for Indian Food Processing MSMEs.