With effect from January 1, 2022, packaged food companies will be required to show the use by or expiry date instead of the "best before" date, present nutritional information on the main display panel in larger font sizes, and ensure that the name of the food, as well as the vegetarian and non-vegetarian classification symbols, are shown on the front of the pack.

For the first time, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which has notified new labelling and display regulations, has also classified children in the food industry as being under the age of 18.

E-commerce food business operators and the restaurant industry have also been given labelling guidelines. Sources say that the previously proposed core requirements of color-coded labels to distinguish high-fat, high-salt, and high-sugar foods, as well as front-of-pack labelling, are still being finalised.

Concerns in the industry

Despite the fact that the FSSAI finalised these regulations after a lengthy consultation period, the industry has expressed concerns about the classification of children as those under the age of 18 in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act. “In the food industry, there is no sense in determining children's age in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act. If this is introduced, companies will have to rethink their entire marketing strategies,” a senior industry executive said.

Industry groups have also expressed concerns about the larger size (height) for numerals and alphabets prescribed in the norms for the "principal display panel," claiming that such large sizes on the label are impractical. To comply with the new standards, companies will need to redesign their packaging and use a greater volume of packaging content, according to another senior industry executive.

On the mark, the “Date of manufacture or packaging” and “Expiry/Use by” must be declared. “Best before” can, however, be used as an optional or additional piece of information, according to the regulations. Industry players have also expressed concern about this clause, claiming that, unlike the pharmaceutical industry, it would be impossible to show an expiry date instead of the existing standard of "best by date." “When a food product is sold through e-commerce or any other direct selling means, except for ‘batch number/ lot number, best before, use by date, expiry date, date of manufacturing/ packaging,' the required specifications of the label as set forth in these regulations shall be given to the customer by reasonable means before sale,” the regulations added.

Calorie counts

On menu cards, boards, or booklets, restaurants and cafes with a central licence or outlets in 10 or more locations would be required to list the calorific values against food products. “ Furthermore, reference information on calorie requirements must be illustrated clearly and prominently, as follows: "An average active adult requires 2,000 kcal energy per day, however, calorie needs needed differ," it said. These rules will also apply to operators of e-commerce food businesses.

Certain labelling bans have also been imposed on categories such as edible oils and bottled drinking water. For example, on the labels, packaged water companies cannot make statements about medicinal (preventative, alleviative, or curative) effects.