FSSAI to draw up new packaging regulations

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

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Cases of contamination owing to the use of substandard materials have prompted the Indian regulator to take action by preparing new food packaging guidelines.

“There will be separate regulations for packaging, for which draft regulations will be out soon,” said Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, adding that these will cover boxes, bottles, pouches and foil containers.

The new standards to govern materials and printing are intended to make food companies more accountable. The regulations in use already have been adopted from Bureau of Indian Standards and focus more on labelling than on packaging. 

The FSSAI now plans to publish its own benchmarks to ensure all packaging used in food and drinks is safe and can be monitored.  

These will be based on a study conducted by the FSSAI and the Indian Institute of Packaging on the quality of packaging materials manufactured in India. 

The research was commissioned following mounting calls to assess whether chemicals in food packaging pose health and safety risks for want of stricter regulations. 

During the study, we found that 100% of the samples did not pass the tests. In some samples, the colour was coming out of the packaging material​,” said NC Saha, director of the IIP.

Currently, aluminium, copper, brass, glass, plastic and tin can be used for packaging and should conform to Indian Standards specifications.

The re-use of tin and plastic containers is prohibited, especially for packaging edible oil and fat, while there are specific rules for packaging of products such as milk, dairy products, edible oil, fruits and vegetables, canned meat and drinking water.  

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Pakistan’s constitution prevents harmonised standards, warn business leaders

Pakistan is in desperate need of a central body to co-ordinate regulations as a number of conflicting food standards are currently in force across the country.

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That’s according to the Pakistan Business Council in a letter to Amjad Ali Khan, secretary-general of the Ministry of Inter-provincial Co-ordination, which stated that the present broad range of food laws could lead to price hikes and constrained production.

Producing and packaging to differing standards will prevent national foods companies to gain economies of scale. So they will be forced to pass on the additional cost to consumers​,” Ehsan Malik, the PCB’s chief executive, said in the letter.

The group, which represents some of Pakistan’s businesses, including 24 multinationals, blames a constitutional provision for the chaotic system.

Malik said the 18th amendment into the constitution bestows provinces with the right to legislate their own food manufacturing industries, leading to conflicting codes depending on where a product is sold within Pakistan.

Instead, a central body would be able to devise harmonised national food standards under international guidelines.

An interprovincial committee should be constituted under supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology, which should include representatives of the provincial food authorities and the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority​,” Malik wrote. 

This body would formulate harmonised national foods standard in line with the Codex Alimentarius.

With provincial food authorities often promoting standards that are in conflict with the laws defined by PSQCA, it can be a challenge for food companies to know which standards to follow. 

In particular, standard variations and overlapping conformity assessment mechanisms have been hurting business.

The PBC said it believes the fragmented nature of the provincial food laws goes against the spirit of Article 151 of the Constitution, which is designed to facilitate a single market in the country.

Nor do multiple food laws permit Pakistan to comply with its international commitments under the World Trade Organisation agreements,” the group wrote. “Once a national standard is adopted by all provinces, its implementation should be overseen by the provincial food authorities​.”

Badal tempts German firms to invest in India’s future global food supply

India has the potential to become a key food manufacturing nation while global demand stands to increase by 50% by 2050.

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That’s according to Harsimrat Kaur Badal, India’s minister for food processing industries, as she called on a gathering of international business leaders at the Anuga trade show in Germany to “co-develop and optimise [India’s] food processing capability, to serve the world food market​”.

With just 10% of India’s harvest being processed, there is here massive potential for foreign businesses invested in India as the world’s population creeps towards 9bn, she added.

Turning to local delegates, the minister launched into a charm offensive, saying: “Germany is among India's most important partners bilaterally and in global context, and India is ready with open arms to welcome German companies​.”

Badal also took the opportunity to launch a new fortified rice made by a Delhi-based company at Anuga.

The Power Rice, manufactured by Asbah, contains eight vitamins and minerals and will be marketed to urban families.

"Today's lifestyle is hectic and fast-paced, leaving people with little time to consume proper nutritional food. Asbah understands the need of the hour and brings to you 'Asbah Power Rice' with power of 8 nutrients such as vitamin A, B1, B6, B3, B12, zinc, iron and folic acid​,” said Gaurav Jain, director of Asbah, which claims to be the “world's first social brand in the food category.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging