Imperative to make nutraceuticals & food supplements affordable; need to develop backward linkages to ensure traceability
| 06 Jul 2017
| NOP Bureau National

Imperative to make nutraceuticals & food supplements affordable; need to develop backward linkages to ensure traceability

New Delhi, July 6, 2017: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is in the process of addressing concerns raised by the industry on new standards for eight categories of products, including health supplements and nutraceuticals notified last year, its CEO (chief executive officer), Mr Pawan Agarwal said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi today.

“I am taking this opportunity to reassure the industry here that if there are concerns with the standards we have released, we are still open to changing those standards, making provisions to address the concerns that you have,” said Mr Agarwal while addressing an ‘ASSOCHAM National Symposium on Nutraceuticals.’

“We have received 5-6 representations, of course it has to go through a process, we are in the process of doing so,” he said.

“These standards will come into force for compliance from January 1, 2018 so we have a little time at hand before these come into compliance and hopefully we will be able to iron out those differences and concerns which will be addressed within the next 5-6 months that we have,” added Mr Agarwal.

He said that the standards of nutraceuticals were released by FSSAI a few months ago after very prolonged deliberations in the FSSAI by the scientific panel, scientific committee and then the authority.

“There are associated standards and regulations, and the key amongst them being labelling regulations, claim regulations for which again the draft will soon be available on our website and we will be very happy to get feedback from the industry on those drafts,” he said.

He said that these are also quite contentious issues considering that consumers’ interest for any regulator is primary. “I think that is non-negotiable. So any food supplement manufacturer giving any kinds of claims, has to be extra cautious and as a regulator we have to ensure that those claims are substantiated with evidence.”

Mr Agarwal also apprehended that industry might have reservations regarding claims regulations which will soon be put in place. “There may be some concerns from the sector, I am pre-warning you.”

On the labelling, he said there may not be too many issues. He however added that FSSAI has been getting reports from the field that increasingly large number of spurious products are available in the market today.

“The challenge with the food supplements is that there is no robust framework for testing of food supplements products. There are also issue about good manufacturing practices around food supplements and nutraceuticals sectors,” said the FSSAI chief.

He said that FSSAI has set up a technical panel with representatives from food supplement companies to put together the framework for goods manufacturing practices (GMPs) for nutraceuticals and food supplements.

“We do hope that it will bring greater clarity to have a more robust ecosystem for manufacturing, processing and distribution of food supplements in the country,” said Mr Agarwal.

He further said that though there are many companies that import food supplements and while the FSSAI intends to provide them a level-playing field but considering the ‘Make in India,’ campaign of the government, their focus is on promoting much of processing and manufacturing within India.

The FSSAI chief also said that it is imperative for both the industry and government to work together to provide a more robust framework for growth of food supplement and nutraceuticals sector in India.

In his address at the ASSOCHAM conference, Mr J.P. Meena, secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) stressed upon the need to make the food supplements and nutraceuticals affordable as about 43 per cent children across India remain malnourished while the sector mainly caters to the middle and upper-middle class consumers.

Noting the various challenges being faced by the sector like the need to gain public confidence and questions raised as to whether the claims being made the manufacturers are evidence-based, Mr Meena said, “Attempts are being made to remove these constraints but I think the industry has to walk a lot of distance to make it a popular product, more so when health awareness is on the rise about processed foods, the traceability will become paramount.”

He said that the only way to ensure traceability is to develop backward linkages. “The present practice of sourcing raw material from here and there, I think will have to come over and get into organised cultivation of plants required for nutraceuticals.”

Mr Meena also informed that MoFPI has particularly being focusing on making farmers/growers partners in the growth story of food processing sector.

“Unless the benefits to some extent are passed on to the farmers, I see that the future of industry will not be very stable and we may not be able to face challenges which will emerge in the future on account of health concerns,” he said.

“Sooner or later traceability is going to be an issue and everybody who is there in the food business may be required to have certification on this issue and there lies actually the tie-up with the farmers,” he added.

He also informed that with regards to capacity expansion and creating new capacities, MoFPI has come out with a new scheme, ‘Kisan Sampada,’ whereby government will be investing Rs 6,000 crore over next three years which should bring an investment of about Rs 35,000 crore in the food processing sector as a whole.

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