Arun Singhal, CEO, FSSAI said that the regulator is planning to develop a risk management system for the domestic sector similar to the system already in place for imported products for sampling and inspection. This will include the product details, manufacturer profile, compliance reports to reduce the incidence of unnecessary inspection by food and safety inspectors, he added.
Addressing the virtual India Food and Nutrition Innovation Summit 2021 (IFNIS 2021), organised by FICCI and Thinking Forks Consulting with collaboration from MoFPI, Singhal said that FSSAI has been embracing the use of technology in a big way and all activities are online today.
"Our IT platforms are robust, and we have gone for ease of doing business on these platforms. We are now coming out with the concept of 'perpetual license' so that no renewal of license would be necessary for the industry," he added.
Singhal further added that one of the biggest innovations by FSSAI was the launch of Eat Right India campaign through which consumers would get all information regarding healthy food.
"From next January consumers visiting the restaurant will find the menu card to have the serving size along with the calorific information of the serving as well. We are soon coming out with the vegan logo. There is a small class of people growing in numbers who are vegans and there was no certification available for vegan foods. We have also come out with a regulation for Ayush Aahar as well," he added.
He highlighted that FSSAI has been focusing on rapid food testing kits. "We are among the very few countries in the world to start the concept of mobile food testing labs and we have the concept of Food Safety on Wheels," he noted.
Singhal while emphasising on the innovation and opportunities in the sector said that the scope for industry is humungous including the innovations in primary production and post-harvest management.
"There could be innovations in food waste management, food packaging technology and packaged food with lower carbon footprint such as alternate proteins. We should also use block chains, IoT, real time monitoring, end-to-end traceability technologies," he added.
He further urged the industry to set apart some budget for research and development. "Our aim is to ensure safe, healthy and sustainable food for all Indians and to make that a reality we need to foster a culture of innovation. This is something the government alone cannot achieve on its own and requires the partnership of government, industry and innovators," Singhal emphasised.
Manoj Joshi, special secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India said that in the last few months with the announcement of the PLI scheme, “we have created a window for innovative and organic products which attracted a lot of attention by the innovators”.
One area of concern under the PLI scheme includes the millets, which needs attention, since there are a very few millet-based products in the market. "Innovations in IT, logistics, storage and primary processing from industry are areas where government support is required and wherever there is a market failure government must come in," he noted.
Hemant Malik, chair, FICCI Food Processing Committee and CEO-Food Division, ITC said that as India's population soars well past one billion, the challenge of feeding its people also grows. Food processing is positioned to be a vital part of the solution.
"India's food processing sector is one of the largest in the world and its output is expected to reach USD 535 billion by 2025-26," he added.
Malik also said that today there is a heightened sense of food safety, nutrition and health. Consumers are moving from unbranded to branded, which assures them of some of these concerns when it comes to food. Transparency of information on labels is another area, which is a key requirement from consumers. Some of the trends such as snacking across meal occasions – midnight snacking – convenience is also driving growth in the industry, he added.
A knowledge paper on Indian food and nutrition innovation – Innovation in Food & Nutrition: Towards a Healthier India – was also released during the event. The report aims to highlight the gaps when it comes to nutrition, emerging consumer and market trends that are driving consumer choices in food and beverage products.
These include functional foods and nutraceuticals, innovative new products and formats that the disruptive new age companies are bringing to market, disruptive technologies from the industry and academia, which is ready for commercialisation, and the regulatory framework that is evolving to enable the potential to innovate towards providing healthier food choices to consumers.