The Compound Eye

Policy Focus

Advertising and Claims Regulations, FSSAI 

Earlier this week, the Maharashtra FDA seized food products worth INR 69 lakhs in lieu of misleading claims made by the manufacturers. In raids carried out at cold storages located at various places, FDA officers had found issues with three products. These are Nutralite Fat Spread of Zydus Wellness Pvt. Ltd and Amul Lite and Delicious made by Gujarat Co. Op Milk Federation. While the products advertise claims such as "Zero Cholesterol" or "Low Fat, Low Cholesterol", these claims are not compliant with the requirements of Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims) Regulations, 2018. It has been reported that the samples tested in the raid had:

  • In case of Nutralite Fat Spread product claims "Naturally Zero Cholesterol" but it
  • contains 35gm of saturated fats
  • In case of Delicious Fat Spread product claims "Zero Cholesterol" but it contains 37gm of saturated fats
  • In case of Amul Lite Fat Spread product claims "Low Fat, Low Cholesterol" but it contains 37 gm of saturated fats

The Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims) Regulations, 2018 ensure only correct and relevant information reaches the consumers. The regulations mandates that manufacturers scientifically validate health claims they make. One of the major objectives of the guidelines is to ensure manufacturers do not manipulate the idea of a balanced diet in order to increase their sales. Late last year, the FSSAI had issued show-cause notices to quick service restaurant chain McDonald’s for its ads. It said that government regulations do not allow companies to promote food choices that are against national initiatives encouraging healthier diets.

Further the regulations also lay down conditions under which manufacturers can make certain claims – such as “low salt” or “no-added sugar” etc. It is in this schedule that the specifications for advertising low fat are mentioned. These are as follows:

For Low Cholesterol

- Not more than

·      20 mg cholesterol per 100 g for solids and 1.5 g saturated fat per 100 g for solids or

·      10 mg per 100 ml for liquids and 0.75 g of saturated fat per 100 ml for liquids

and in either case must provide not more than 10% of energy from saturated fat.

For Cholesterol-Free*

Not more than

·      5 mg cholesterol per 100g for solids or 100 ml for liquids.

·      Additionally the food shall contain no more than 1.5 g saturated fat per 100 g for solids or

·      0.75 g of saturated fat per 100 ml for liquids

and in either case must provide not more than 10% of energy from saturated fat.

For Low-Fat

·      Not more than 3 g of fat per 100 g for solids or

·       1.5 g of fat per 100ml for liquids

For Fat-Free

Not more than 0.5 g of fat per 100 g for solids or 100 ml for liquids.

* To make these claims the specific nutrient in the food must provide the minimum amount of energy specified.

The tested levels of 35 gm saturated levels where presumably found in the 100 gm packets and these high levels are against the acceptable limits of saturated acids for a low or free cholesterol claim.

Though FSSAI sets up the guidelines, the regulations are overseen by an independent entity – the Advertising Standards Council of India. In December 2019, the Centre decided to set up another committee to investigate claims made in advertisements, seeking to fix accountability on manufacturers and help consumers choose food items objectively. Clearly there is a long way to go to educate manufacturers and consumers on the need to treat nutrition related data and claims with utmost seriousness.

It's Controversial

The scientists moving out

In the last 4 years, 12 scientists have left the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune according to a report in the Deccan Herald. CSIR Director-General Shekhar Mande reportedly said that the reasons for this high attrition were generic (such as personal reasons, better-perceived opportunities, specific teaching or research interests and better climatic conditions) although it remains concerning. 

The report suggests that NCL sources pointed out that the real reasons for scientists to leave ranged from poor institutional management to the NCL top brass's inability to handle the pressure of quickly delivering commercial products and technology. 

The CompoundTake - The findings of this report are open to debate and the reasons for scientists leaving may be more complicated than reported. However, a majority of fundamental research in India is sponsored by the government, but by its very nature cannot always be translated into commercially viable products. In fact fundamental research is meant to incrementally add to existing knowledge. But in the long-term interest of science itself, it may also be reasonable to expect publicly funded institutions to also raise money to support their operations. Certainly the government's meagre allocation to research and development is not going to be sufficient to accelerate research in the country. However, such translational research can only be built organically and needs supportive policies to encourage it. For example, easing industry-academic lab collaborations and technology transfers. Otherwise the pressure put on by unreasonable expectations would lead our bright minds to unnecessarily move away from our institutions. 

Science in India

Bihar gets a turtle rehab centre: 

Forest department is inaugurating a turtle rehab centre in Bihar's Bhagalpur forest this month. The centre is meant to accommodate 500 turtles at a time. The rehab centre has come in response to forest department officials finding several injured and sick turtles. Many of these turtles are rescued from smugglers, who sell the turtles either for food or as part of pet trade. The forest area has sandbanks, which are an ideal place for the turtles to breed. 

Previously rescued turtles used to be released back into the river without any treatment. However, the poor treatment that is meted out to them by the smugglers necessitates some medical intervention. The primary role of the rehab centre will be to monitor their recovery and aid their release back into nature. 

The CompoundTake: The centre is a welcome idea and such centres need to be established all across the country where turtles are found. This is of particular importance at Indian coasts, where not only are turtles the victims of smugglers, but also of fishing nets and plastic debris. The rehab centre can also be used to study diseases affecting turtles and research optimal conditions for turtle growth. 

Meanwhile, Things Just Got Weird:

Someone released bedbugs in a Walmart: More like left them in a closed bottle in a boy's jacket. Walmart is obviously taking this seriously, but whether this was intentional or accidental is anybody's guess. Under any condition, someone out there has bottles of bedbugs. Tread very very carefully in 2020. 

'Mighty mice' splash down to Earth after stay on space station: Mice - genetically engineered to harbour improved muscle strength - have returned to earth after a sojourn at the International Space Station. Scientists are using the mice to study the effect of zero gravity on muscle loss. Interesting though, while NASA had to delay it all-female mission because of lack of appropriate spacesuits, the mice they sent in this project were all female. 

Artificial gills for humans could become a reality: You know, in case you want to go live underwater and escape all the mess happening on the ground. 

Please click here if you would like to subscribe to this newsletter
Enjoyed reading this newsletter? Please share with others. Forwarding options below
Shambhavi Naik Research Fellow
080 4372 5304

Takshashila Institution

37/5 Yellappa Chetty Layout Ulsoor Road, Ulsoor, Bangalore