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Your Bikaji and Haldiram snacks may now come with star-rated warning labels. The details

Akshata Kamath
Akshata KamathNov 19, 2022 | 09:00

Your Bikaji and Haldiram snacks may now come with star-rated warning labels. The details

Your Haldirams snack packets, along with many others, might now be rated for health benefits in 'Stars'. (Photo: Twitter)

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is considering enforcing all packaged foods manufacturers to print warning labels on the front of all snacks and sweet packages with a star rating.

While food companies are calling this guideline ''faulty'' and fear that this will crash their business, this consideration comes from years of requests by health activists who have been calling for more transparency on everyday packaged foods.

Why do we need this warning label? Do you pick out ready-to-eat snacks from your grocery store out of habit, without knowing how many kilos it is adding to your waistline? Or are you aware of the salt and sugar content in these packets and how it affects your body? Not many of us do and don't worry, you aren't the only one. Often the nutrition content mentioned doesn't make sense or is too complicated to understand, thus making the whole effort of disclosing nutrition value irrelevant. 

In fact, many health activists have been urging the government for years and advocating for implementing easy-to-understand guidelines and nutrition mentions, so that customers know what they are eating.

Photo: Twitter

So the government is now considering a change in the packaging whereby manufacturers disclose how healthy the packaged eatable items are. By using Stars.

What might this new packaging look like? 

  • The labelling draft has proposed that packaged foods be given star ratings of one to five.
  • The packets will be classified as good, not good or unhealthy based on their salt, sugar and fat content.

But manufacturers are seeking a better alternative ie color coding: Food companies are opposing star ratings since the meaning of these stars could be ambiguous for customers. They are therefore pushing for red and green symbols on the packs which will indicate high salt and sugar content. So red will indicate high salt and sugar while green can indicate high nutrition content. 

Photo: Getty Images

Also, there is a deep fear in the industry: Food companies have been resisting the proposals because FMCG retailers, manufacturers, and traders believe that this kind of labelling will classify more than 85% of Indian traditional foods and snacks as ''unhealthy'' which will reduce their business. This has led 30 parliament members from states including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Andhra Pradesh, to write either to the Prime Minister's Office or the Health minister's Office. 

How will it affect food-making companies? Snack food companies are objecting to the new proposal because this new kind of packaging will destroy the Indian snack and sweets industry, especially companies that make foods like chips, namkeens, and ethnic sweets. As per ET,  Haldiram Group, Bikanervala, Balaji Wafers and Greendot Health Foods have written to The Federation of Sweets & Namkeen Manufacturers (FSSAI) Chief Executive S Gopalakrishnan.

  • The letter attempts to object to FSSAI's proposal because India's traditional sweets and snacks were associated with festivals and customs and are made of fat, salt and/or sugar. The front pack labelling will deem packaged foods like peanut chikki, gajak, upma mix and besan laddu as unhealthy as these items will fall under the category of 0.5-2.0 stars and will be classified as high in fat, salt and sugar for at least one nutrient. Not just these particular items, but about 85% of the Indian traditional foods will be classified in such terms, thus affecting the entire industry. 
  • Another fear that also exists is that the star rating system itself could be misleading. This is because unhealthy food products could receive more stars because they add certain healthy nutrients, which will mask the negative impact of the excessive use of critical nutrients of concern, that is salt, sugar and fats. 

What do you think of the new packaging system? Will it work?

Last updated: November 19, 2022 | 09:00
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