In a major crackdown on caffeinated products that are sold without a health warning, the Food and Drugs Administration of Maharashtra has pulled up McDonald’s, a fast food chain, for not following rules.
Fast food retailers have called it unfair as to target one company when restaurants, food stalls and fast food chains sell caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee in paper glasses, without warnings.
FDA officials said that all malls, multiplexes, cinema halls, restaurants and bars and fast food chains will be inspected to check if they are printing the ‘Contains caffeine’ disclaimer on beverage containers, or face suspension of their licence. Caffeine is a stimulant found in beverages such as coffee, tea and carbonated drinks. It can treat and prevent premature infant breathing disorders and is on WHO Model list of medicines, but other studies have established that high doses cause restlessness, tension, insomnia, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal disturbance and irregular heartbeat. In contrast to the claim made by food manufacturers, researchers have found that caffeine has no role as a flavouring agent in the soft drinks.
Officials said that the issue was raised by an assistant commissioner of Kolhapur FDA branch, who pulled up the local Mcdonald franchise for not printing the caffeine disclaimer. However, as the franchise went into an appeal against the action, the issue was heard by FDA Maharashtra Commissioner, Harshadeep Kamble, recently.
“Mcdonald’s representatives argued that the warnings are only to be printed on beverage cans or bottles. However, as per the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, every beverage container needs to carry the disclaimer to inform consumers about the contents of the drink,” said Kamble. He added that every consumer has the right to choose between caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks and should be informed about the same and thus rejected the appeal of the fast food giants.
While McDonald officials didn’t disclose if they will add the disclaimer on their pre-mix cold drink containers, the representatives confirmed that they are following the national standards of FSS and there are no violations of any kind.
“McDonald’s India adheres to all statutory requirements, and is in compliance with all applicable laws pertaining to mandatory food labelling. At McDonald’s India, the health, safety and well-being of our customers is paramount. We have always conformed to the food safety standards and will continue to do so at all times,” said a McDonald’s spokesperson.
The FDA action hasn’t gone well with the food industry, which said that one company has been targeted. “First of all, there are no specific guidelines on the containers or glasses that are used to dispense the caffeinated beverages. FDA targeting McDonald is not nearly practical because all the restaurants, fast food chains, or even smaller hotels who sell caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee in paper glasses, don’t have any warnings,” said an official from a popular fast food chain in Mumbai.
Officials confirmed that the incident brought up the issue of pre-mix beverages which have caffeine content being sold without the disclaimer in front.
“Considering the established health hazards of caffeine on children and pregnant woman, we have passed an order that all fast food chains, bar and restaurants, malls and multiplexes using pre-mix beverage machines, will now have to carry the disclaimer, ‘Contains Caffeine,’ on the containers. I have instructed all the joint and assistant commissioners to inspect the outlets, and if anybody is found violating the norms, they will face license suspension,” Kamble added.