ARTICLE
22 April 2024

FSSAI Advisory: E-Commerce Platforms To Properly Categorize Food Products On Their Websites.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India ("FSSAI") is a statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 ("FSS Act").
India Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences
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The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India ("FSSAI") is a statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 ("FSS Act"). It operates under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. The FSSAI is responsible for regulating and supervising the safety and standards of food products to ensure their quality and hygiene. It formulates regulations, sets standards for food products, and regulates their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import. The FSSAI also conducts food safety training and education programs to raise awareness among consumers and food business operators.

On March 28, 2024, the FSSAI issued an advisory to all e-commerce Food Business Operators ("FBOs"), wherein, the FSSAI directed all e-commerce FBOs to ensure appropriate categorization of food products being sold on their websites ("Advisory").

The FSSAI observed that food items licensed as 'Proprietary Food' under categories such as dairy based beverage mix, cereal based beverage mix, or malt based beverage are being marketed on e-commerce platforms under labels such as 'Health Drink' or 'Energy Drink'. Proprietary Foods are those food items that are not standardized under the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 and Food Safety and Standards (Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Food for Special Dietary Use, Food for Special Medical Purpose, Functional Food, and Novel Food) Regulations, 2016, however, they use standardised ingredients.

The Advisory stated that the term 'Energy Drink' is only allowed for products falling under category 14.1.4 of the FSSAI's food category system, which includes water-based flavoured drinks like sport, energy, or electrolyte drinks. These drinks must adhere to specific standards outlined for carbonated and non-carbonated caffeinated beverages as per sub-regulation 2.10.6 (2) of the Food Safety Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011. The Advisory further clarified that the term 'Health Drink' is not defined under the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006. Therefore, the FSSAI has advised all e-commerce FBOs to promptly rectify this misclassification by removing or de-linking such drinks or beverages from the category of 'Health Drinks / Energy Drinks' on their websites and place such products in the appropriate category as provided under the extant law.

Subsequent to the Advisory, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued an advisory dated April 10, 2024 to e-commerce platforms to take down Bourn Vita and other beverages from 'Health Drinks' section. The aforementioned advisory stated that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights ("NCPCR"), a statutory body constituted under Section (3) of the Commission of Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005, after its inquiry under Section 14 of CPCR Act 2005 concluded that there is no "health drink" defined under the FSS Act, rules and regulations submitted by the FSSAI and Mondelez India Food Private Limited. Twelve months ago, Bourn Vita faced controversy due to its high level of sugar content. Shortly thereafter, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights instructed the brand owned by Mondelez India to cease all 'misleading' advertisements that touted various health benefits associated with the drink.1 The discussion regarding the purported health dangers linked to Bourn Vita and the aforementioned move by the child rights organization emerged following criticism from an influencer in an Instagram video. The influencer asserted that the powder supplement contains high amounts of sugar, cocoa solids, and potentially hazardous colorants, which may pose significant health threats to children, including the potential risk of cancer2.

This corrective measure by the FSSAI and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry seeks to improve clarity and transparency regarding the characteristics and functional attributes of the products, ensuring that consumers can make informed decisions without being misled by inaccurate information.

Footnotes

1. Withdraw 'misleading' Bourn Vita ads, packaging and labels, says NCPCR | India News – The Indian Express

2. Explained: Amid Bourn Vita Row, The Impact Of 'Sugar' In Your Health Drink (thequint.com)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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