The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched a consultation paper proposing to introduce a conditional licensing framework for proprietary food products.
In its consultation paper, the FSSAI said it has encountered cases of food manufacturers seeking licenses for proprietary food products that “closely mimic” products for which standards have been prescribed. According to the FSSAI, the absence of any law or explicit guidelines for proprietary foods has led to “loose compliance requirements” for manufacturers.
Proprietary food products are products for which no identity standard has been established under current regulations, but which are manufactured using authorized ingredients and additives.
These are generally products with unique formulations that allow companies to offer differentiated products to consumers. In recent years, the regulator has also added new standards in various categories such as beverages – products such as fruit soft drinks and energy drinks – which were previously considered proprietary foods.
Nutraceuticals, health supplements, foods for special medical purposes, functional foods or novel foods do not fall under the category of proprietary foods.
“The concept of conditional authorization aims to verify the entry of these products into the market when the composition of the product is diluted / diverted to avoid compliance with standardized food products while allowing the entry of value-added food products that might not fit into the description of a standardized food product or are entirely different products made from a mixture of standardized food products, ”the document said.
All food products must adhere to horizontal standards that include standards for packaging, labeling, contaminants, toxins, among others. At the same time, food safety regulations consist of vertical standards that mainly focus on the identity and composition standards of specific food products and cover additives, microbiological requirements, among others.
However, proprietary food products currently do not need to adhere to vertical standards and are only tested for horizontal standards of the closest food category.
“For example, honey with ashwagandha may be allowed as an exclusive food; however, there is no requirement that the product meet the vertical standards for honey as such. Likewise, other products containing a simple addition of vitamins and minerals in a standardized food product are currently categorized as proprietary foods, ”he said.
The food safety authority therefore also offers, where possible, to map proprietary food products with their closest standardized food category.