A new Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) notification that makes it mandatory for all foods and alcoholic beverages to list all ingredients used on their label, in Devnagri or English, has caught domestic winemakers and importers on the backfoot.
Till last year, anyone could get an import-export code and import wines from overseas under an Open General Licence. Since April this year, all importers have to comply with labelling requirements laid down by FSSAI which mandates that all ingredients used in the production of a beverage must be printed on labels. A product also requires testing in 'approved labs'. The rule doesn't apply to single ingredient foods. Alcoholic beverages, which contain additives including colour, water, and preservatives, should carry such labels, which is not always possible for international manufacturers who consider India a small market.
The Indian wine industry has so far been working on establishing `wine standards' for the country. Now even domestic wineries will have to comply with the labelling requirements of FSSAI.
According to industry sources, close to 50 containers (each consists of around 9,000 bottles) were stopped at the Mumbai port recently because they failed to meet the new labelling requirements of India. According to industry representatives, there are technical differences in FSSAI rules and Codex. Many spirits in other countries are single ingredient spirits though in India they aren't considered thus. Winemakers in India argue that since wine is a single ingredient, it should not require any kind of labelling.
According to Jagdish Holkar, chairman, India Grape Processing Board (IGPB), the board has been in touch with international bodies on this issue and these are of the opinion that since wine is a natural product and is a single ingredient, labelling should not be emphasised. India imports around 500,000 cases of wine annually.
At present, wines come under the Bureau of Indian Standards. Now, importers have to register with FSSAI first before bringing wines into the country. However, the new directive has led to confusion in the industry since work has already been in progress on creating a standard labelling format for the industry, Holkar said.
"There are around 20 odd parameters which are being considered by the industry, including tolerance levels, ingredients, alcohol content, MRP, manufacturers name and address. Because of the new label standards, wineries and importers have to report to three enforcement bodies — FSSAI, Legal Metrology and excise departments.