INDIA – The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has laid down new regulations that requires food companies to use the word ‘natural’ only if the food labelled is natural.

According to ET Retail report, manufacturers cannot claim a food to be natural if rather than washing, peeling, trimming and chilling, is subjected to processing which could alter its basic characteristics.

Common words, used on labels, under FSSAI’s limelight include ‘natural’, ‘fresh’, ‘original’, ‘traditional’, ‘pure’, ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’ and ‘real’.

As per new regulations, companies using words with an intention to mean the above terms as their brand name or trade mark will have to give a clear disclaimer stating “this is only a brand name or trade mark and does not represent its true nature”.

The regulation also lays down criteria for certain claims which food companies can make in their advertising and promotions such as nutrition claims, non-addition claims (including non-addition of sugars and sodium salts), health claims, claims related to dietary guidelines or healthy diets and conditional claims.

Packaged food companies cannot advertise products as complete meal replacement or undermine the importance of healthy lifestyle.

In case an advertiser wants to make claims for which regulations have not been specified in, they will have to seek approval from the authority.

The new regulation prohibits food businesses from advertising or making claims undermining the products of other manufacturers as to promote their own products or influence consumer behaviour.

FSSAI has stated that those companies implicated in confusing consumers through misleading food labels may have to face hefty penalties.

According to the draft regulations, food containing additives and/or subjected to packaging, storing or any other supply chain processes that control freshness shall not be termed as ‘freshly stored’ or ‘freshly packed’.

Use of the word ‘natural’ will be permitted only for food derived from a plant, animal, micro-organism or mineral and to which nothing has been added.

Food processing that may qualify for natural may include smoking without chemicals, cooking processes such as roasting, blanching and dehydration, freezing, concentration, pasteurisation, and sterilisation.

Speaking on the new development, a spokesperson for HUL said: “We are fully supportive of FSSAI’s efforts to improve nutritional standards in India.

Along with the rest of the F&B industry, we are engaging with them to have robust regulations in place.”

FSSAI’s new regulation steps in to protect the consumer interests by making food manufacturers more responsible for the health and nutrition claims they make on their labels.

The move comes in handy given that the packaged foods market in India is expected to grow to US$200 billion in the next 10 years, according to Credit Suisse.

Last year, the food regulatory agency moved to enact regulations to ensure what is being sold as organic food is actually organic in nature.