Healthy diet is one of the key responses to the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases. Both supply and demand-side interventions are needed to ensure that citizens have access to and eat healthy food. FSSAI has initiated a series of action in this regard.

As everybody is aware that “Food Labeling” serves as a primary link of communication between the manufacturer and consumer and covers both food safety and information of consumer interest. To make the national labelling regulations more robust and effective, FSSAI is in the process of comprehensive revision of Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 with the objective of having three different regulations dealing separately to packaging, labelling and Advertisement & claims requirements. In this series, two regulations namely “FSS (Packaging) Regulations and FSS (Advertising and Claims) Regulations have been finalised and notified in the year 2018.

Now the FSSAI’s new Labelling and Display regulations is ready for draft notification. These regulations will supersede the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.

The idea behind the new labelling regulations is to enable citizens to know more about the composition of food products, so that they can make informed choices. According to the proposed draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, the packaged food companies will need to declare nutritional information such as calories (energy), Saturated fat, trans-fat, added sugar and sodium per serve on the front of the pack. The food labels will also declare, per serve percentage contribution to RDA (recommended dietary allowance) on the front of the pack.

In a bid to encourage consumers make healthier food choices, these regulations propose to make it mandatory to display red colour-coding on front-of-the-pack labels on packaged food products that have high-fat, high-sugar and high-salt content levels. This requirement would be implemented in phased manner for a period of three years.

In present time, the industry practice is to put manufacturing date and expiry date at two different places over the pack and it became difficult for consumer to see both at a glance. Hence, the new regulations propose that Date Marking including date of manufacturing and date of expiry must be at one place to make it easily.

Food allergen labelling is an important tool to reduce risk of exposure and prevent anaphylaxis for individuals with food allergies. Hence the new regulations prescribe the Provision for labelling of food allergen and also allows to use of standardized precautionary and safety symbols.

Other key features of these regulations are:

 Nutritional information may additionally be provided in the form of Barcode/Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN).

 New logo for Vegetarian food which consists of a green colour filled triangle inside a square with green outline to enable the colour blind people

 Every package of food material which is not meant for human consumption shall bear a [X] symbol so as to clearly distinguish the non-food grade items to food items.

 An internal mechanism to address the problem arising out of implementation/interpretation of the regulations.

 Mandatory labelling requirements like information relating to allergens and logo of veg, non-veg food etc. for the prepared food as well.

India has a large audience for both Veg & Non-Veg food, but some of the communities are restricted by religion where Non-Veg food is not entertained, also there are people who have their personal preference for ‘Veg only’ food items. To safeguard the interests and the sentiments of such people a food product label must have the identification mark “Veg” or “Non-Veg” for the category of food.

It is mandatory for all food manufacturers to indicate as to whether the food item contains any non-vegetarian ingredients or not. To enable the consumer to know whether any packaged food is vegetarian or non-vegetarian, this will be indicated in the form of a brown circle in square or green circle in a square on the package. A brown circle is to indicate the presence of non-vegetarian ingredients in the food item, while a green circle indicates that the food item is vegetarian. The green circle and brown circle in a square are indicated as veg & non-veg logos respectively.

Let us first understand as per food laws what is a non-vegetarian food and what is vegetarian food.

“Non- Vegetarian Food” means an article of food which contains whole or part of any animal including birds, fresh water or marine animals or eggs or products of any animal origin, but excluding milk or milk products, as an ingredient.

“Vegetarian Food” means any article of Food other than Non- Vegetarian Food.

The Veg , Non veg logo should be placed near the product name so that consumer can easily identify the product that the product is vegetarian or contain any non-vegetarian content.

(i) The size of the logo depends upon the size of the product. The size of the logo i.e. the diameter of the circle and side of the square shall be in accordance to the size of the label.

(ii) The package of “Non Vegetarian” food shall have a symbol and color code as given below to indicate that the product is Non-Vegetarian Food. The symbol shall consist of a brown color filled circle having a specified diameter at the centre of the brown square.

If any article of food contains egg only as Non-Vegetarian ingredient, the manufacturer, or packer or seller has to mention the same along with the said symbol.

The package of Vegetarian Food shall bear a symbol and color code as given below to indicate that the product is Vegetarian Food. The symbol shall consist of a green color filled circle, having a specified diameter not less than the minimum size inside the square with green outline having specified size.

There are some products like carbonated water and liquid milk which are exempted from this provision, hence these markings are not required on these products.

So, it is mandatory that labeling of every food product should indicate “Veg” or “Non-Veg” element in the ingredients through recommended marks on the label enabling the user to make a choice.