The process of menu labelling involves communicating information to consumers including the calorific value, the nutritional content of food, and other data. On 26 August 2020, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (“FSSAI”) incorporated menu labelling requirements (“Amendment”) for food service establishments to observe by amending the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 (“Regulations”). A new sub-regulation 2.4.6 was added to the Regulations which deals with ‘Display of information in food service establishments’ (“FSEs”). Although, the Amendment came into force on 1 January 2022, its implementation was delayed until 30 June 2022.
The FSSAI has noted numerous benefits of providing such information to consumers which include:
SCOPE OF THE AMENDMENT
The Amendment applies to FSEs which meet either of the following requirements:
This applicability of the Amendment also extends to hotels, restaurants, clubs, canteens, caterers, cloud kitchens, and dhabas which satisfy the requirements. Moreover, e-commerce food business operators that satisfy either of the above-mentioned criteria, are also required to adhere to the Amendment. With regards to e-commerce food business operators, information can be directly sourced from the owners and updated on the platforms, or the platforms can provide a feature where respective enterprises can do so.
However, the Amendment states that FSEs that operate for less than 60 days in a calendar year are exempted from its scope, regardless of whether they meet the requirements. The exemption also extends to mid-day meal caterers/ canteens, as they operate under a centrally sponsored scheme for a specific group where food is provided based on a pre-determined calorific value.
MANDATE OF THE AMENDMENT
The information to be displayed for the benefit of consumers must be exhibited in a two-fold manner as given below:
(i) Mandatory Information: The mandatory information to be displayed by FSEs on food menu cards or menu boards includes:
Additionally, the Amendment, akin to the requirements under US laws, requires menu cards to promote healthy food intake by stating that “an average active adult requires 2,000 kcal energy per day, however, calorie needs may vary”. It is important to note that the declaration of information does not extend to (a) condiments that are provided free of charge; and (b) specially modified meals which are provided at the request of the customer.
(ii) Additional Information: FSEs are also mandated to provide additional information to the customers on their request via booklets, website, and digital applications. This includes information in the form of:
Interestingly, though the term ‘food service establishment’ has been capitalised, it has not been defined yet under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (“Act”), the Regulations or the Amendment. This creates a lacuna in the law which is open to interpretation with regards to the implementation of the Amendment. To that extent, it is concluded that the application of the Amendment is limited to a ‘food service establishment’ that either has a central license or has outlets at ten or more locations.
CALCULATION OF NUTRITIVE VALUE OF FOOD ITEMS
Primarily, in practice, there are two methods to calculate the nutritive value of food items:
In this regard, laboratory testing and the nutrient analysis method from accredited laboratories and research institutions that have been notified under Section 43(1) of Act , are appropriate for FSEs that have standardised recipes and items. On the other hand, FSEs using the manual method are mandated to keep a record of physical/soft copies of all documentation relied upon to make such determination for the purpose of verification by food safety officers. To that end, FSEs are allowed a deviation of 25% for declarations made on nutrition information.
Any derogation of the menu labelling requirement will initially attract a penalty in the form of an improvement notice from a designated officer. Further non-observance of the directives provided under the improvement notice could result in suspension of the licenses of the FSEs, or worse, their cancellation, as the case may be.
The Amendment is a welcome change to the food safety and standards regime as it provides consumers more autonomy to make informed choices with regard to their consumption of food and their health. However, there are certain discrepancies which currently exist in relation to the interpretation of the Amendment which must be clarified by the FSSAI.
Primarily, it is important to take a note that in 2018, the FSSAI decided to supersede the Regulations and divide it into two separate regulations namely: (a) the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging) Regulations, 2018 ; and (b) the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020 .
This step was taken to implement a robust and effective national labelling and packaging process. However, the Amendment currently states that it has been implemented to amend the old law, i.e., the Regulations. This creates a conundrum in the interpretation and application of the law under the Regulations. This is yet to be clarified and addressed by the FSSAI.
 Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) First Amendment Regulations, 2020 (India), https://fssai.gov.in/upload/notifications/2020/08/5f4611c4eca96Gazette_Notification_Information_Display_Food_26_08_2020.pdf.
 Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 (India), https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Packaging_Labelling_Regulations.pdf.
 Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (India), https://fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/FOOD-ACT.pdf.
 Food Safety and Standards (Packaging) Regulations, 2018 (India), https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Gazette_Notification_Packaging_03_01_2019.pdf.
 Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020 (India), https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Compendium_Labelling_Display_23_09_2021.pdf.