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FSSAI labeling issue hits packaged food imports hard

It is not just your favourite imported chocolate that went missing from shop shelves this festive season. Crispies such as Pringles, gourmet cheese, olive oil, biscuits, noodles, pasta, jams, honey, oats, sauces… you name it… were hardly to be found this Diwali as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s apex regulator, came down heavily on importers overlabeling issues.

Government sources indicate that packaged foods worth over Rs 750-1,000 crore were stuck at various ports and airports across the country as the food safety regulator insisted that importers desist from using stickers on food products to indicate crucial details such as the product type, price and nutritional value.
What’s worse? The stand-off, on for the last three months, shows no signs of abating, as FSSAI refuses to budge from its position. “FSSAI’s move is in line with the law, and all companies – be it Indian or foreign – should comply with it. Stickers are temporary measures. When our norms are clearly laid out, companies must print them on the packs that are to be shipped to India,” an FSSAI official when contacted said. He declined to be quoted given the sensitivity of the matter.
But importers, irked by the lacklustre Diwali sales, say that if the issue is not sorted out soon enough could impact business during Christmas and New Year too. Almost 50-55% of packaged food imports in India happen during the festive season, since it is utilised mainly for gifting purposes besides consumption.
Amit Lohani, convenor, Forum of Indian Food Importers, a body of food importers in the country, says FIFI has already made numerous representations to FSSAI in a bid to resolve the issue. “On October 31, FSSAI came out with a notification agreeing to one of our demands, which is to allow the food safety logo on a sticker. This is with immediate effect,” Lohani, who imports confectionary, snacks and coffee among other products, said.

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