The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), in a letter written to all the Commissioners of Food Safety and the Regional Directors of FSSAI on 23 January 2023, has said that certain food business operators (FBOs) are selling non-dairy products by using dairy terms such as ‘vegan ghee’ and ‘vegan butter’ in violation of the FSSAI regulations. Such products are of non-animal origin and are usually a blend of two or more edible oils or hydrogenated fats and natural identical flavors, etc. They are being sold deceptively as ‘vegan ghee/butter’.
As per the provisions of the ‘Food Safety and Standards (Vegan Foods) Regulations’, 2022, ghee and butter cannot be claimed to be vegan foods. The use of the vegan-food claim and vegan logo is permitted only after the prior approval of the food authority. The letter says that the compliance report should be sent to the officials concerned by 15 February 2023.
The names of dairy products are used for plant-based products in the market. The FSSAI move comes two days after a tweet from Dr RS Sodhi, president, Indian Dairy Association, in which he had said that selling plant-based products by branding them as ghee and butter is cheating of consumers of the highest order. This practice should be immediately stopped.
In a report from Rural Voice, Dr RS Sodhi said that the FSSAI move was in the farmers’ interest, which had speedily been taken. He said that the matter had been brought to the notice of Rajesh Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying. Subsequently, he spoke to FSSAI in this regard and asked it to take the necessary step, which led to the FSSAI action.
Dr Sodhi said that no person or company would be able to use product names like ghee, butter, cheese, milk, lassi and yogurt for plant-based products. He said that while this move would protect the interests of small and medium dairy farmers, it would also make the right product available for consumers. He said that these companies blended vegetable oils and sold it as ghee. Which was totally deceptive. Besides, these products were sold way above their costs at a price that was even higher than that of the ghee made of milk fats by dairy companies.
Surprisingly, FSSAI took a stern step and issued the above letter on January 23 within two days. Citing the safety regulations, this letter clarifies the stipulated provisions that define dairy products. Besides, it says, only products made of fats obtained completely from animal milk can be considered as ghee and butter. Products made of plant-based fats cannot use dairy terms like ‘ghee’ and ‘butter’.