For the First time, the country’s food regulator has proposed all packaged products containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients must clearly state it on their labels.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) also suggests mandatory declaration by packaged food manufacturers about nutritional information such as calories, total fat, trans fat, sugar and salt per serve on the front of the pack.
Since the country has no provision for GM labelling in its regulatory mechanism presently, consumers are clueless whether packaged food items they buy have genetically engineered (GE) ingredients amid ‘unproven’ concerns in certain quarters about adverse effects such transgenic food can have on human health.
The FSSAI had last month released a 42-page draft notice – Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 – making it mandatory to label such foodstuffs as “Contains GMO/Ingredients derived from GMO” if such items contain 5% or more GE ingredients.
Pitching for a colour code, the draft proposes that the high fat, sugar and salt will be coloured ‘red’ in case the value of energy from total sugar is more than 10% of the total energy provided by the 100 grams or 100 ml of the product. It has similar provisions for trans-fat and sodium content.
The draft says that the nutritional information may additionally be provided in the form of a barcode. The colour coding will make it easier for consumers to know about the nutritional value of food products and help them make choices as per their requirements.
Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “The GM labelling is an important step but we need a proper system to check it. We need advanced lab facilities to check whether the foodstuffs contain GM ingredients or not”.