INDIA – The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has stretched its labelling regime to restaurant chains operating in multiple states, obligating them to furnish consumers with information about food items displayed on their menus, like the calorific value, allergen details, nutritional information and health warnings.

The provision encompassing restaurant chains has been incorporated into the newly enacted 2020 Food Safety and Standards labelling and display regulations.

FSSAI’s move is expected to give a hard time to most of the restaurant chains as the new requirement is not only about display of the information but also ensuring adherence to what is in the declaration.

The new move may compel restaurants to take their consumers into consideration and halt indiscriminate use of potentially harmful taste enhancers and ingredients, hence provide food that is tasty and healthy at the same time.

India’s e-commerce food business operators like Swiggy, Zomato and UberEats are required to get this mandatory information from the applicable restaurants and publish it in their portal.

When specific parameters for nutritional information and calorific values are displayed, the chefs at these restaurants will be left with a laborious task to keep watch on the ingredients and their quantity while preparing food.

Breaching the declared parameters is punishable with a fine of up to Rs. 3 Lakhs (USD $4043.16) under Section 52 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

Furthermore, the new regulations require provision of allergen information against the food, failure to which risks food being classified as unsafe on account of being misbranded.

According to live law India, defaulters could face life imprisonment and part with a penalty of up to ten lakh rupees (USD $13477.20) as per Section 59 of the Act, depending on the degree of harm caused to a consumer by such misinformation.

Besides allergen warnings, the FSSAI also mandates for health warnings to be availed in case certain ingredients which are not suitable for pregnant women and infants like monosodium glutamate are used in preparation of the food.

This could aid consumers to be more conscious about their eating habits and would help to avoid foods that may pose risk to their health.

These changes, for obvious reasons are not desirable for restaurants as it opens up a host of new protocols to be followed.

The display of calorie and nutritional values could provide indicators on the quality of food served in such restaurants.

The new directives will urge food retailers to not only think about profit, but also keep in mind their accountability to the society in striking a fine balance between taste and health.