India’s plant-based industry cites new consumer data in battle to ditch ‘dairy’ banOctober 20, 2020
According to FSSAI, the reason for this ban is due to regulatory vocabulary – namely because current FSSAI regulations define ‘milk’ as the ‘normal mammary secretion derived from complete milking of healthy milch animals’ and plant-based products are not included in this definition.
“[Based on these regulations,] anything else can not be called milk as per this definition [so even] if any final product is intended to substitute milk, a milk product or composite milk product, a dairy term shall not be used,” FSSAI Head (Codex/Regulations) Sunil Bakshi told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[Such] provisions specifically prohibiting [the] use of any dairy term (including milk) for a product which is not milk or milk product or composite milk product [actually] already exists in our regulations, [and the current proposed restriction] is only a reiteration of what [already exists].”
When queried as to what FSSAI proposes plant-based products in the market use to replace the dairy terms, Bakshi stressed that this nomenclature must be ‘indicative of the dairy analogue’s true nature’.
“[For example], it may be mentioned here that in the Codex Regional Standard for Non-Fermented Soya Bean Products (CXS 322R-2015), the term ‘beverage’ can be used in the nomenclature of the soya-based product analogous to milk,” he said.
This suggestion has not gone down well with the plant-based industry in India – plant-based advocacy body Good Food Institute (GFI) expressed concern that this was likely to not only confuse consumers, but also affect product sales across the board.
“[The] proposed ban is a surprising move given the reputation of the FSSAI as a progressive, evidence-based regulator, and risks stifling innovation which would benefit the consumer,” GFI India Managing Director Varun Deshpande told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Plant-based milks and other products have a wide variety of uses, and our research has confirmed that Indian consumers use plant-based milks across several applications, including tea, coffee, and cooking, so the use of the term ‘beverage’ therefore may not accurately represent to the consumer what the product is and its full scope, which could result in confusion and a drop in sales.”
Desphande also highlighted the potential negative impacts of the ban on the entire industry, as well as the lack of consistency in its proposed implementation.
“We believe that [this] is against the interest of a young industry with major promise for sustainability, job creation, and consumer choice,” he said
“[It is] also inconsistent with common-sense regulations already in place for other foods such as peanut butter, cocoa butter, and coconut milk, and risks confusing consumers, who for the most part do not seem to have any ambiguity about the source of plant-based milk.”
This last part was also based on GFI and IPSOS research, where a majority (over 70%) of Indians were found to be able to…