INDIA – The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has finalized guidelines to regulate claims and advertisements by food business operators in relation to consumable food items.

These regulations are aimed at establishing fairness in claims and advertisements of food products and make food businesses accountable for such claims/advertisements to protect consumer interests.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and increased focus of consumers towards health and wellbeing, the focus of consumers has been towards food that provide health benefits. Therefore, during this phase many companies have launched products that claim to provide better nutrition and related health benefits. In this context, the guidelines are timely to balance the interest of consumers and food companies.

The regulations lay down general principles for claims and advertisements like criteria for nutrition claims including nutrient content or nutrient comparative claims, non-addition claims including non-addition of sugars and sodium salts, health claims, claims related to dietary guidelines or healthy diets, and conditional claims.

They also highlight claims that are specifically prohibited and procedures for approval of claims and redressal of non-compliances.

According to the guidelines, advertisements for food or beverages shall not be promoted or portrayed as a meal replacement unless otherwise specifically permitted as a meal replacement under any other regulations made under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

The claim that a food has certain nutritional or health attributes shall be scientifically substantiated by validated methods of quantifying the ingredient or substance that is the basis for the claim.

Further, it states that no advertisements or claims for articles of foods shall be made by any food business operator that undermines the products of any other manufacturer for the purpose of promoting their products or influencing consumer behaviour.

In addition, the claims shall not state, suggest or imply that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients as required by the body. It shall also not encourage or condone excess consumption of a particular food.

Any person, including a third party, who advertises or is a party to the publication of any misleading advertisement not complying with the regulations laid down by FSSAI would be penalized with a fine which may extend up to Rs 10 lakh (approximately US $13,450).

As reported by Managing IP, the guidelines are a good way to keep food companies in check and not indiscriminately use the words ‘natural’, ‘fresh’, ‘original’, ‘traditional’, ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’ on the packaging.

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