Before browsing products in the food shopping aisle or buying food products off the internet, how many of us actually read the label?
Not many of us do. But there is a reason why you, as a consumer, must be aware of the regulations that govern food labelling in India.
You are a consumer and as someone who is directly consuming those food products you have the right to know exactly what must go on those labels.
You may also be a manufacturer, or you may be creating a platform for such manufacturers. A basic understanding of the food labelling regulations could save you from a lot of legal trouble.
Food labelling regulations are laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) by way of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulation, 2011.
This blog post is going to deal with food labelling regulations that apply to pre-packaged food.
- The contents of the label must be in English or Hindi. The contents can be in any other language also, but the condition is that the label must carry information in either Hindi or English as well.
- The label should not be capable of being separated from the container.
- The information on the label cannot be false, misleading, or deceptive. Remember, the customer is the king.
- The information on the label should be legible, clear, and prominent.
- If a wrapper covers your package, you have two options. Either the wrapper must contain the contents of the label or the label should be clearly visible through the wrapper.
Food Labelling Regulations: The Nitty-Gritty
These are the detailed contents that a label must display:
1. Trade name
The trade name of the food item or its description. (Example: Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam).
Ingredients which must be listed in descending order of their weight or volume in the food item. For example, if a bar of chocolate lists sugar as the first ingredient and cocoa powder as the second, it means that the major component in the making of a chocolate bar is sugar and not actual cocoa powder.
3. Nutritional information
The nutritional information per 100 grams or 100 ml per serving of the food item. Nutritional information means information about the fat, protein and carbohydrate content of a product, as well as any other nutrient that it contains.
4. Vegetarian/Non-vegetarian mark
The label must declare whether the food item is vegetarian or whether it contains meat. If the product only contains egg and no meat, the manufacturer can use the brown dot (which denotes a non-vegetarian mark) and mention the fact next to it. The green dot represents a vegetarian mark.
5. Food additives
Food additives need to be mentioned as well. These include acidity regulators, preservatives, raising agents, thickeners, colour retention agents, etc.
6. Food colouring
If any food colouring has been used in the food item, the following statements have to be mentioned below the list of ingredients (IN CAPITAL LETTERS):
CONTAINS PERMITTED NATURAL COLOURS
CONTAINS PERMITTED SYNTHETIC FOOD COLOURS
CONTAINS PERMITTED NATURAL AND SYNTHETIC FOOD COLOURS
The same also applies to added flavour. I’m sure we’ve all noticed the CONTAINS ADDED FLAVOUR on most packaged food items. For example, a can of Pepsi that clearly states that the product does not contain any fruit, and contains added flavour.
7. Name and address of the manufacturer
The name and address of the manufacturer, manufacturing unit, and the packaging/bottling unit should be mentioned on the label. If the food item has been imported, the name and address of the importer should be present on the label, as well as the country of origin.
8. Instructions for use
Instructions for use to ensure appropriate consumption of the food item.
9. Batch Number/Code Number/Lot Number
Batch Number/Code Number/Lot number which is a mark of identification should be clearly visible on the label.
10. Date of manufacturing/Packaging and Best before/Use by Date
Mention of the date of manufacturing/packaging and best before/use by date is an integral component of food labels.
This is not all
Please keep in mind that the regulations that have been discussed so far have several exceptions attached to them and contain extensive information that could aid your knowledge. For example, there are different rules that govern labels on infant food and infant milk substitutes.
If you want more information, access these regulations here.
There are also specific rules that govern pictorial representations on labels. Pictures are not supposed to confuse or mislead consumers. Thus, a picture of fruit on a carbonated beverage is misleading and is prohibited.
Remember that misbranding of food products by providing misleading information and not adhering to the food labelling regulations can invoke a penalty of up to INR 3 lakhs. As a consumer, you can detect such misbranding by reading the label carefully and bring legal action against the manufacturer if any misbranding is present on the label. As a manufacturer, you can save yourself from potential legal trouble by complying with these regulations.
Packaged food products are all around us. This guide works as an introduction to food labelling for both consumers as well as manufacturers. It is merely the tip of the iceberg of information about consumer awareness and manufacturer responsibility.
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