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Vinka Marketers

Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu
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As every child learns early on through constant repetition by its parents, it is important to eat your vegetables. The problem with eating your daily dose of fresh fruit and vegetables is not only one of convenience or taste; it is often enough a question of price.

Eating fresh and healthy products tends to be more expensive than eating processed foods and that price gap may soon widen. President Trump recently suggested introducing a 20 percent import tax on all things Mexican to fund his border wall, a move that could drive up prices for fruits and vegetables in the United States.

As our chart illustrates, Mexico is by far the most important supplier of fruit and vegetables for the U.S. — a country that is increasingly dependent on fruit and vegetable imports. Between 1980 and 2010, the percentage of fruit and vegetable demand in the U.S. that is covered by imports has doubled and tripled, respectively, reaching 49 percent (fresh fruit) and 25 percent (fresh vegetables).

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Having exercised its will over packaged food companies, the food regulator is now set to control kirana stores and street vendors to enhance food safety.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Wednesday issued an advisory saying it has decided to ban the use of newspapers for wrapping and packing of food items, a common practice by small corner shops and street vendors.

In its advisory, FSSAI asked commissioners of food safety of all states and Union territories to take necessary steps to restrict the use of newspapers for packing, serving and storing of food items as the newspaper ink can contaminate food items leading to serious health concerns.

“Older people, teenagers, children and people with compromised vital organs and immune systems are at a greater risk of acquiring cancer-related health complications, if they are exposed to food packed in such materials,” FSSAI noted in its advisory.

According to estimates by the Union housing ministry, in 2014 there were 10 million street vendors, mostly in cities. Consulting firm Boston Consulting Group estimated that there were around 12 million kirana stores in 2014-15.

“Newspapers should not be used to wrap, cover and serve food or to absorb excess oil from fried food. There is an urgent need to discourage the use of newspaper as food packaging material by creating awareness among businesses, especially, unorganized food business operators and consumers, on its harmful effects. Suitable steps need to be taken to restrict and control the use of newspapers for packing food material,” the FSSAI advisory added.

The food safety regulator, however, is yet to declare imposition of penalty for non-compliance. An official at FSSAI did not want to speak on the financial implications related to the implementation of the decision on ground.

Printing ink, usually used for printing newspapers, may contain bioactive materials, harmful colours, pigments, binders, additives, preservatives, chemical contaminants and even pathogenic microorganisms that may pose potential risk to human health, according to the FSSAI advisory. “Newspapers and even paper or cardboard boxes made of recycled paper may be contaminated with metallic contaminants, mineral oils and harmful chemicals like phthalates which can cause digestive problems and also lead to severe toxicity,” it added.

Wrapping food in newspapers is an unhealthy practice and the consumption of such food is injurious to health, even if the food has been cooked hygienically. “Indians are being slowly poisoned due to newspapers being widely used as food packaging material by small hotels, vendors and also in homes in lieu of absorbent paper,” the regulator said.

This is the first time in recent years FSSAI is bringing a new rule relating to packaging of food items. So far, the regulator focused on setting standards for packaged food.

The Indian government has been trying to ban use of plastic bags for storage and transport of goods. The government had in October 2012 issued a notification declaring a blanket ban on use of plastic bags. But it has not been implemented as manufacturers of plastic bags moved the Delhi High Court against the order almost immediately, and the court is yet to rule on the issue.

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India’s food regulator wants restaurants to declare the calorific and nutritive value of the food they serve in an effort aimed at making consumers aware of what they eat.

“Declaring details of calorie intake and nutrition information ensures that consumers are informed. These things are already part of labelling norms for packaged food,” said Pawan Kumar Agarwal, chief executive officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

But Agarwal doesn’t want to make this mandatory—at least, not yet.

“To start with, let the big ones come forward and do this voluntarily.”

Some fine-dining restaurants, especially those at five-star hotels, have separate menus for low-calorie food and also offer sugar-free options on demand. But they do not declare calorific and nutrition details.

The Indian food regulator’s move is probably inspired by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), which in December 2014 notified rules for the so-called Nutrition Labelling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments. By 5 May 2017, some categories of restaurants in the US will have to comply with these.

FSSAI is likely to follow the USFDA standards, when it decides to notify rules, although there is no plan to do this immediately.

“We are working with FSSAI and disclosing information on nutrition and calorie intake will not be an issue,” said a spokesperson for the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India that has 1,700 members across nine states.

Riyaaz Amlani, president, National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) isn’t as enthusiastic about the idea. “Making it voluntary may make sense. But if it is mandatory, compliance may be an issue. Declaration of nutrition information and calorie details will be a huge task. Even in the western countries, it is not a practice,” said Amlani, who owns Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd that runs popular restaurant and bar and cafe chains such as Smoke House Deli and Social.

The food services market in India is projected to grow to Rs4.98 trillion by 2021, expanding at an annual average rate of 10%, from Rs3.09 trillion in 2016, according to a NRAI-Technopak report.

The food regulator is also working on standards for organic food, including grains. These will be notified by the end of February, Agarwal said.

Organic food is a relatively new phenomenon in India and most of this market is unorganized at present.

The size of the organic food market, most of which is for pulses and grains, was estimated at $0.36 billion in 2014 but is projected to grow at 25-30% a year to $1.36 billion by 2020, according to an October-2015 study by industry lobby group Assocham and research firm TechSci Research.

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If you visit the U.S Food and Drug Administration website, you will get to know that Indian snacks and other eatables have been rejected multiple times by the U.S food security authorities. The U.S FDA had issued an extremely transparent and accessible list of its import refusals dating back to the year 2001. We went through last year’s report and saw that Haldiram’s snacks were rejected on 19th September on the grounds that it contained pesticides.

This was not it, the violations kept on increasing with every passing month. In December 2014, twenty one product shipments were refused by the US food inspectors under snacks category out of which 17 were Haldiram’s products. The charge statement said that the product/s “appears to be adulterated because it contains a pesticide chemical.”

The U.S FDA also rejected a batch of Britannia biscuits on January 6th stating that “the article appears to be misbranded in that the label or labeling fails to bear the required nutrition information.” Bikaji, Bikanerwala and Desai Brothers were also spotted in the import refusal report on the grounds of the article consisting “in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or be otherwise unfit for food.''

News Headlines

If you visit the U.S Food and Drug Administration website, you will get to know that Indian snacks and other eatables have been rejected multiple times by the U.S food security authorities. The U.S FDA had issued an extremely transparent and accessible list of its import refusals dating back to the year 2001. We went through last year’s report and saw that Haldiram’s snacks were rejected on 19th September on the grounds that it contained pesticides.

This was not it, the violations kept on increasing with every passing month. In December 2014, twenty one product shipments were refused by the US food inspectors under snacks category out of which 17 were Haldiram’s products. The charge statement said that the product/s “appears to be adulterated because it contains a pesticide chemical.”

The U.S FDA also rejected a batch of Britannia biscuits on Januray 6th stating that “the article appears to be misbranded in that the label or labeling fails to bear the required nutrition information.” Bikaji, Bikanerwala and Desai Brothers were also spotted in the import refusal report on the grounds of the article consisting “in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or be otherwise unfit for food. “

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Tiruppur-641607, Tamil Nadu, India

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