No System in Place to Check Nutritional Claims by Beverage Companies
New Delhi: The launch of 'healthy', 'pure' and 'natural' products
by food and beverage companies in the market is never verified, as
the government is yet to put in place a system to test and validate
the claims made in ads and on product labels.
The recent launches have been of Tropicana 100 per cent (orange, apple
and grape variants), Nimbooz by PepsiCo, Saint 100 per cent juice
with orange, mixed fruit and grape by Parle Agro, and then LMN, and
'Be Sure' Amla Juice by Genotex International (India).
India does have laws like the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act
(PFA) and the Fruit Products Order (FPO) to ensure safety of these
products. All food products have to be registered with or have a licence
from the health ministry (PFA division). The FPO is a mandatory requirement
for all manufacturers of fruit and vegetable-based products.
The PFA cautions that "... a label shall not contain any statement,
claim, design, device, fancy name or abbreviation, which is false
or misleading in any particular concerning the food contained in the
package, or concerning the quantity or the nutritive value or in relation
to the place of origin of the said food."
No laboratory testing, however, is done to verify the claims that
companies make. In the case of packaged mineral water, every six months
two bottles from the plant are tested by the Bureau of Indian Standards
(BIS). In case of fruit-based products, no pre- or post- testing takes
place, unless someone makes a complaint.
SB Dongre, Director, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
(FSSAI, which issues FPO licence), admitted: "No laboratory test report
is required at the time of granting a licence. We don't conduct any
test. If there's a complaint, it has to be taken with the company
first through a consumer court." The FSSAI is an autonomous statutory
body set up under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and administered
by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Many food and beverage companies have their own R&D labs and say they
ensure what is marked on the labels on their own ethical grounds.
Nadia Chauhan, Joint MD and CMO, Parle Agro Pvt Ltd, said: "We do
testing and research in our own R&D labs located out of Mumbai. Most
companies outsource the R&D work and choose what suits their requirements
A GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSKCH) spokesperson said: "Currently,
there is no such certification body providing a certificate to a product
being healthy or natural. In general, the product needs to deliver
good level of key beneficial nutrients."
A PepsiCo India spokesperson concurred: "The 'healthy' claims, wherever
made on PepsiCo products, are based on well-established and generally
accepted sound scientific principles, as well as compliance to regulatory
requirements provided in the PFA Act. The claims such as 'natural',
where no specific regulation exists in India, are made only on those
products, which pass stringent internal regulatory guard-rails, including
A Coca Cola India representative clarified: "We use none of these
words (healthy, natural or pure) to market any of our products."
While the companies may be doing their bit to ensure what is advertised
is true, a government-level certification of the claims would be more
reliable, suggests Kushal PS Yadav, Coordinator, (food safety), CSE.
He said: "It would be better if the goverment certifies a product
as healthy, natural etc. Companies will only speak the best of their
products. Even where the government is working, it's not enough. It
has been six years and the health ministry has not released a final
report on setting standards on pesticide level."
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