CUTS seeks a year extension for SMEs to adopt Indian Nutrition Rating norm

KNN, November 30, 2022

Raising concerns regarding the Draft Regulations on Display of Indian Nutrition Rating on Food Labels with FSSAI, CUTS International has said that there should be exception for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and they must be given a grace period of 12 months or lesser to adopt the rule.

Submitting key recommendations on the draft regulation, the consumer body suggested to adopt simple, interpretive ‘high in’ style warning label which is mandatory rather than being voluntary, said a press release.

CUTS International has written to FSSAI and Madhu Sudan Sharma, Senior Programme Officer from CUTS personally met, briefed and handed over a written submission to the Chairperson, Parliamentary Committee on Health and Family Welfare highlighting key areas of concern in the draft.

Sharma explained that it has been established as the most reliable FoPL format that improves public health and aids consumers (regardless of their age, literacy proficiency or socio-economic strata) to make healthier choices.

Referring to the experiences of other countries, CUTS International flagged the possibilities on how the industry can easily manipulate the proposed INR system that is mentioned in the draft notification.

“Food products high in salt, sugar or fat that deserve a low rating (1 star) could get a moderate rating (3 or even 4 stars) by adding some positive nutrients such as fibre, protein, and vitamins. So do away with the rating system and instead just warn the consumers if a product is high in any of the three critical nutrients,” said CUTS.

Emphasising on not generalising the intention of FOPL to give information about various nutrients, it said that these are already there in the back of the pack labelling and this tool should be to aid health conscious and ill consumers to easily pick foods products that are healthier and having critical nutrients (Salt, Sugar & Fat) in moderate level.

“More importantly, we also strongly recommend to adopt the SEARO nutrient profile model as it was developed based on extensive expert consultations and country experiences including India. It is based on WHO Population Nutrient Intake Goals, based on global evidence and data to prevent obesity, diabetes, and related NCDs,” recommended the consumer body.

The draft in the current format, if finalised, will lay down the rules for rating food products based on nutrition content on the front of packet throughout India, and could have vast potential to confuse consumers if not thoroughly revised, claimed George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS International.

Elaborating further he stressed that this is a disastrous one-sided move to appease food industries ignoring the concerns raised by health experts and consumer organisations.

Experts representing various prominent health institutions and consumer organisations like Indian Medical Association, National Resource Centre for Non-Communicable Diseases (NRC-NCD), Indian Dietetic Association, and various consumer organization across the states etc., have already voiced similar concerns.

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