The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have published a list of allowed “nutrient function” claims that edible oil firms can use on the labels and advertisements of their products.

The apex food regulator in its most recent announcement informed that the terms such as “rich in” or “contains” should be in line with the conditions put down under these regulations, presuming that the “food business operators may choose to use the same or similar terms in the claim statements” as listed out in the norms.

It also declared that edible oil firms should make sure that “there is no alteration in the aim and meaning of the claim.”

For example, groundnut oil companies can affirm- “contains monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and Omega-6 Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) that aids in lowering of cholesterol” and “contains Tocopherols which are natural antioxidants,” on the labels and ads.

The supreme regulator has highlighted claim statements for 15 categories of edible oil in the Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims) First Amendment Regulations, 2020.

It will come into force from 1st Jul., 2021. The regulations comprises allowed claim statements for edible oils such as coconut oil, mustard oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soyabean oil, sunflower oil, linseed oil or flaxseed oil and palmolein oil, among others.

The FSSAI’s norms for product categories like nutraceuticals, health/ dietary supplements, food for special dietary use, etc has also laid down techniques to make disease preventing claims and amenities have been put down for claims on the basis of available scientific evidence.

As the country is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail stores are flooded with products claiming to be immunity-boosters across several categories such as packaged food and nutraceuticals as well as Ayurveda and natural products.

As per the officials, any novel claim in nutraceuticals, health supplements or dietary supplements categories, where scientific support is not present, requires preliminary consent from the food safety authority and there is a stringent procedure of inspection of scientific proof submitted by companies and importers for non-specified food and food ingredients.

Recently, FSSAI had also appealed State governments to augment surveillance considering claims and accordance of norms for products in these categories. Ayurvedic food products, however, do not fall under the range of FSSAI and it is working on formulation of regulations in partnership with the Ayush Ministry for Ayurveda based foods called as Ayurveda Aahaar.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Ayush has also requested Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to reinforce inspection of ads with claims that breach the Ministry’s guidelines during the situation of the pandemic.

Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General of ASCI informed that 233 advertisements have been flagged off to Ayush Ministry till now for disobeying the government’s norms by ASCI. She said that all advertisers need to verify their claims with proof and a committee of technical experts at ASCI inspects these claims.

“Over 500 ads with COVID-related claims have been scrutinized till now which comprises categories like packaged food and personal care. Out of this 233 ads were flagged off to Ayush Ministry. Also three advertisements were asked to be immediately stopped being telecasted,” Kapoor declared.

ASCI also functions closely with several government departments including Ministry of Consumer Affairs and FSSAI in this issue.

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