New Delhi: Food regulator FSSAI on Thursday assured the food supplements and nutraceuticals industry that it is open to making changes in the new standards to support growth of the sector, but without compromising on consumers interest.
The Food Safety and Standards (Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Food for Special Dietary Use, Food for Special Medical Purpose, Functional Food and Novel Food) Regulations was issued last December.
Food Business Operators (FBOs) need to comply with these standards by January 1, 2018.
Addressing a Assocham conference on nutraceuticals, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal expressed concern over the increasing number of spurious food supplement products in the market.
“We released standards on food supplements and nutraceuticals few months ago. There were some concerns from the industry but we went ahead and released the standards. But our effort is not to cast them in stone as these are evolving standards,” Agarwal said.
“I want to assure the industry that if there are concerns, we are still open to change that. We have 5-6 months time before this regulations come in force. So, hopefully, we will iron out differences,” he said.
On the sidelines, the FSSAI CEO said that it has got many representation from the industry seeking some changes in the regulations related to inclusion of ingredients.
“Food supplements is a difficult sector to regulate. But for us consumers interest is paramount and non-negotiable,” he said, asking manufacturers to be cautious in declaring any claims about the products.
Stating that a large number of spurious products are available in the market, he said there is no “robust framework” for testing of food supplement products.
FSSAI has set up a technical panel, which includes representation from industry as well, to prepare a framework for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).
“We do hope that it will bring greater clarity to have a more robust ecosystem for manufacturing, processing and distribution of food supplements in the country,” he said.
Agarwal said there is immense opportunity in this industry, but cautioned that “bad name to food supplements sector by few dubious players can hamper the growth of this sunrise industry”.
Speaking at the event, Food Processing Secretary JP Meena said the size of this industry is currently USD 3-4 billion and is growing at 20 per cent.
He said there is a great potential for this sector as the market is huge for these products in India as well as overseas.
However, Meena said there is a need to keep the price of food supplements and nutraceuticals at an “affordable” level.
He also spoke about challenges before the sector and said that consumer confidence about these products is “still to be gained”.
The industry should be in a position to verify claims made about these products through evidence, he said, adding that “traceability is important”.
He emphasised on industry focus on backward linkages to ensure traceability and also on organised cultivation of plants required for nutraceuticals production.
Meena highlighted that the government has recently launched Rs 6,000 crore Sampada scheme to boost food processing and asked industry to avail benefit of this scheme.
He asked food supplement industry to set up units in mega food parks instead of establishing standalone facilities.