INDIA – The food safety commissioner of Tamil Nadu, India, has urged the bottled drinking water companies in the state to provide safe drinking water to consumers.

He said of the 1640 packaged drinking water companies in the state, the products of only a third were suitable for safe drinking. The authorities said that nearly a quarter of the water is of poor quality.

“It was shocking to note that around one third of the packaged drinking water that is in use in the state is either of poor quality or unsafe. We will take stringent action against the companies that failed to maintain the minimum standards set by the BIS. There will be periodical inspections and random checks on these packaged drinking water companies,” said a senior official.

According to sources in the department of food safety, several complaints have been received against the packaged drinking water companies. Following the complaints, 1640 samples from various companies were collected and sent for testing.

The report showed that 694 samples tested were of high quality, 527 were unsafe for drinking while 419 were of poor quality. The department of food safety has filed 173 cases in court and a fine of Rs 39.69 lakh (USD 52,378) has been imposed on these companies and their sales points.

The food safety commissioner directed the companies to get a proper license from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and mandatorily follow all the guidelines under the Food Safety Act.

The department also directed the companies to wash the 20-litre water bottles every time before they are filled with water and stated that the name of the manufacturer and the quality should be displayed on the bottles.

Health star rating for packaged food

In other news, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has announced that it will soon start a star rating for packaged food indicating whether the item is healthy or unhealthy.

This ‘health star’ display on the package will help customers ascertain whether the packaged food is harmful or healthy. The star rating will be determined by the amount of fats, sugar, and salt in the food item

The system will be similar to the one that is being used by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency in India for assessing the energy efficiency in electrical devices.

The ratings will be placed in front of the packets as studies show that this method is much more effective towards affecting the choice of the consumer.

The display of star ratings was recommended by a study conducted by IIM Ahmedabad to make it easier for customers to understand. The ratings will also use the methodology suggested by the study, as reported by Print Week.

The study showed that energy-dense foods are readily available in the country which is leading to non-communicable diseases and obesity in India. Thus is the FSSAI began looking for ways to educate consumers about the nutrition profile of the food they are consuming.

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