Large consignments of food products including that of chocolate maker Lindt have been lying in government warehouses for not conforming to the labelling requirements as laid down by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), according to industry sources.
Given the huge quantity, embassies of the US and European nations have made representations to the authority and the health ministry for releasing the consignments.
However, the FSSAI has asked the companies to take back the consignment and conform to the labelling requirement in the interest of consumers, an official told The Indian Express.
The cases pertain to labelling of food products that have stickers according to the source, which is not permitted by the FSSAI.
Even as the FSSAI refuses to budge, the EU has said that it has taken up the matter with the Indian authorities. When contacted, an EU spokesperson said, “The alleged reason provided by custom authorities is that all labelling information should now be printed on the packaging itself and that an affixed sticker is no longer permissible. ... this could seriously affect the import of food products into India.”
The spokesperson said the EU has sought reasons for the change in the interpretation of the rules, and if FSSAI maintains the same position on labelling, except for large exporters, the Indian market will become largely inaccessible. “This could constitute a serious trade barrier for European food imports.”
The industry source said that the argument on permitting stickers is based on a Madras High Court order in Foodlever case in March 2012, which permitted declaration of necessary information by way of a sticker on the package. The judgement was also quoted by the embassies they met the FSSAI.
However, as per the rule, “the label must be inseparable one”. An FSSAI official said the motive is to cash in on the festive season. “The regulations are for safety of consumers. There are stickers in languages including Japanese and Chinese, which Indian consumers can’t understand. We are responsible for stopping such products until they comply with the law.”