INDIA – India’s regulatory watchdog, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued draft Food Safety and Standards (Vegan Foods) Regulations, 2021, outlining vegan foods and stating compliance requirements in regards to labeling, packaging and a logo exclusively meant for vegan food products.
FSSAI’s draft regulations define ‘Vegan Food’ as “ those foods or food ingredients that have not made use of any ingredients, additives and processing aids of animal origin including milk and milk products, fish, poultry and meat, egg or egg products, honey or honey bee products, materials of insect origin like silk, dyes, chitin or chitosan etc. or ingredients that are clarified using animal-sourced products, for example, bone char used in sugar bleaching, isinglass in clarifying beer etc.”
This marks the first time FSSAI is looking at setting standards and has sought views from stakeholders, close on the heels of clarifying that plant-based beverages cannot be labelled as milk.
According to the draft, no person shall manufacture, pack, sell, offer for sale, market, or otherwise distribute or import any food as vegan food unless they comply with the requirements laid down under these regulations.
No animal testing
FSSAI draft regulations state that the food products or ingredients to be called Vegan, shall not have involved animal testing for evaluating the safety of the final product or ingredient; and, shall not contain any animal-derived GMOs or products prepared using animal-derived gene for manufacturing the ingredients or products.
It further notifies that the traceability shall be established up to the manufacturer level and shall include any other requirements prescribed by the Food Authority to maintain the vegan integrity of the foods or food ingredients or products thereof from time to time.
Vegan food compliance
The notification clearly states that all vegan foods or ingredients shall comply with the relevant provisions, as applicable under the Act, Rules and regulations.
“The Food Business Operator (FBO) shall apply with all necessary details related to plant, machinery, premises to the authority. Inspection and verification of the premises shall be done by concerned Food Safety Officer or Designated Officer.”
Analytical tools available will be used to ascertain the absence of animal origin for endorsing the vegan logo in the license.
Further, the Food Authority may specify guidelines for endorsement of vegan logo and annual market surveillance for such products. The concerned registration or licensing authority shall conduct surveillance of the registered establishment at least once a year.
Labeling and display requirements
According to draft regulations, all vegan foods shall comply with the packaging and labeling requirements specified under the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020, in addition to the labeling requirements.
It adds that the seller of vegan food either exclusively or as part of retail merchandise shall store and display such food in a manner distinguishable from non-vegan food.
Following the endorsement of these regulations, every package of vegan foods shall carry a logo that is green in color to depict that the ingredient or product is of plant origin, with the letter ‘V’ to identify it as vegan.
The draft regulations shall be taken into consideration after the expiry of a period of 60 days, i.e., 7 November 2021, from the date on which copies of the Official Gazette in which the notification is published are made available to the public.
The new standards come as India’s plant-based industry continues its rapid growth. While North America and Europe are still the most mature plant-based markets, India is now home to a growing number of local food techs and brands developing vegan meat, egg and dairy alternatives.