India’s food regulator wants restaurants to declare the calorific and nutritive value of the food they serve in order to make consumers aware of what they eat.
At present, some fine-dining restaurants, especially those in five-star hotels, have separate menus for low-calorie food and also offer sugar-free options on demand. But they do not declare details of calories and nutrition.
“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.”
The Indian food regulator’s move is probably inspired by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), which notified rules in December 2014 for the so-called Nutrition Labelling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments. By May 5 this year, 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. National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) president Riyaaz Amlani is not 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 regulator is also working on standards for organic food, including grains, which will be notified by the end of February, the FSSAI CEO said.
The food services market in India is projected to grow from Rs 3.09 trillion in 2016 to Rs 4.98 trillion by 2021, expanding at an annual average rate of 10%, according to a NRAI-Technopak report.