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FSSAI to review the points of entry for food imports as it tightens the screws on shipments

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NEW DELHI :  India’s top food regulator—the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)—has cracked down on food imports, saying in has authorized officers at only 155 points to clear shipments “until further orders”. 

“To put in place robust food regulatory framework at the points of entry to ensure the mandate of safe food imports in India, FSSAI has decided to review the points of entry notified for food imports taking into account the trend/volume of food imports, testing facilities and logistics infrastructure etc, G. Kamala Vardhana Rao, CEO of the FSSAI, said in a communication seen by Mint.

“It has been decided to notify authorized officers at only 155 specified points of entry for food imports clearance till further orders,” Rao added.  

Queries sent to the FSSAI spokesperson were not answered immediately.

“When food items are referred to FSSAI for clearance at entry points, they are subjected to scrutiny of documents, visual inspection, sampling and testing to determine whether or not they conform to the rules,” said a second official.

“Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of entry points to ensure effective regulatory control for imported food products,” the official added.

In December 2022 a parliamentary committee recommended that the FSSAI directly regulate all food imports by deploying more officials at all entry points and provide quality training to personnel.

Meanwhile, the FSSAI has expanded its investigation of Nestle to include all brands of baby food and has begun collecting samples of infant-nutrition brands to test for added sugar.

The probe follows an investigation by Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organization, and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), which said all Cerelac baby cereal products sold by Nestle in India contained added sugar—nearly 3 gm per serving on average. 

“While the findings are global, we have to see if they violate our local rules,” an official told Mint earlier.

India’s food regulator permits the use of lactose and glucose polymers as “preferred carbohydrates” for infant food.

“Sucrose and/or fructose shall not be added, unless needed as a carbohydrate source, and provided the sum of these does not exceed 20% of total carbohydrate,” says the Food Safety and Standards (Foods for Infant Nutrition) Regulations, 2020.

Nestlé has maintained that its products manufactured in India are in “full and strict compliance” with global food standards and local specifications pertaining to the requirements of all nutrients—including added sugars.

“Compliance is an essential characteristic of Nestlé India and we will never compromise on that. We also ensure that our products manufactured in India are in full and strict compliance with CODEX standards (a commission established by the WHO and FAO) and local specifications (as required) pertaining to the requirements of all nutrients including added sugars,” a company spokesperson said.

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