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Non-carbonated water-based beverage standards operationalised by FSSAI
Monday, 17 July, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Prashant Nikale, Mumbai
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has operationalised standards relating to non-carbonated water-based beverages (non-alcoholic). The regulations—the Food Safety Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Amendment Regulations, 2017—came into force on July 6, 2017, as a separate category.  

Separate category
The category includes all non-carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages, including tea, coffee and bottled water, but does not include dairy. However, it may contain fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs and so on. These standards will separate non-carbonated, non-alcoholic water-based beverages from other categories of beverages wherein a separate category is defined under the regulations 2.10.6 of the said regulations under the FSS Act.  

Explaining the advantages of the move, Nilesh Lele, secretary, Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (India) [AFST(I)], said, “Previously, packaged drinking water, carbonated beverages and fruit beverages were defined in FSSAI standards. So, there was no clarity about the category in which non-carbonated water-based beverages fell.”

He added, “Through this notification, FSSAI wants to standardise non-carbonated water-based beverages. But there will be no apparent impact on the industry, as it is already adhering to the carbonated beverage standards.”

Meanwhile, sources in the industry opined that as the microbiological requirement limits are expected to improve the health of the consumers and the hygiene and the shelf life of the products, the amendment will give the non-carbonated beverage segment in general, and Indian food standards in particular, a fillip.

Speaking in favour of the new standards, Ashwin Bhadri, chief executive officer, Equinox Labs, said, “It will surely streamline the non-carbonated water-based beverage industry. The parameters specified will not only add to the quality of the beverages, but also help consumers make informed purchase decisions.”

However, he cautioned, “This may stir slight confusion among the relevant industries, but with proper guidance from FSSAI, food safety consultants and other government/private bodies, the industry will only stand to benefit when the regulations are implemented.”

He further stated, “I don’t understand any situation that can hinder either the production or sales of the non-carbonated segment. On the contrary, these new standards will only act as additional trust-builders among the customers.”

Toxicological analysis
According to Bhadri, the regulations include specifications for the presence of certain ingredients and herbs, the permissible food additives and their limits, the hygiene standards followed and the labelling requisites that are mandated by the apex regulator. He added that it also brought to light a lesser-known aspect - to produce the toxicological analysis data in case herbs which are not mentioned in the list provided are used. Also, the use of psychotropic drugs is banned.
In the given notification, non-carbonated water-based beverages (non-alcoholic) are defined as, “The beverages which contain water conforming to the standards prescribed for packaged drinking water under these regulations without added carbon dioxide, and may contain ingredients, single or in combination of ingredients like sugar, liquid glucose, dextrose monohydrate, invert sugar, fructose, honey, salt and salt substitutes, fruits, flowers and vegetables, their products, extracts and derivatives, and the permitted flavouring. The draft has also allowed caffeine up to 145 parts per million (ppm).”

Added herbs and safety
As per the draft, it is mandatory to display the information on added herbs and their safety requirements on the product labels. Additives are permitted only in within specified limits.

The limits which set for microbiological requirements were described as the total plate count should be less than five colony-forming units (cfu) per ml, the yeast and mould count should be less than two cfu per ml, and the caliform count should be absent in 100ml.

Addressing the view on the microbiological requirement limits, Bhadri said, “This was really necessary, as microbiological tests are the very basis of estimating whether the product in question is safe to consume within the said period. It also decides the actual shelf life period of the product, which can prevent food wastage and mitigate the danger to people's health and damage to its brand equity. Label validation and toxicological analysis data are two important aspects that should not be overlooked during the testing process.”

Earlier, the draft for the same was proposed on October 10, 2016, and was notified for suggestions and comments from the stakeholders of the concerned industry.
 
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