New Delhi: While wheat as a whole is struggling to avert the crisis of being painted as an outcast in terms of health, FSSAI, the food regulator of the country, has red flagged the mix up of Atta Maida labels in the food market. In an order of February 1, it has read the riot act, saying food companies must stop labelling on a sly.
The food regulator has decreed that ‘Atta’ and ‘Maida’ must be distinctly labelled so that buyers can make an informed choice of products in the food market. It has passed an express order mandating clearly ‘Maida’ must be labelled as refined wheat flour. The food regulator has fixed April 30 as deadline for compliance.
The order comes at a time when wheat as whole is in dire straits. In a recent 3 day symposium held under the aegis of FSSAI (The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), a number of renowned global experts congregated in Delhi dubbed Atta and Maida as the chips of the same block so far as health is concerned. They declared wheat as a whole unhealthy and tagged it as new sugar. Though FSSAI, which has initiated Eat Right movement, does not fully conform to the shocking label, wheat is already earning food outcast status among doctors and medicine practitioners as they are cautioning diabetics to be wary of the new sugar. They dubbed wheat as a whole spoiler of gut health. Surprisingly, rice got thumbs up as a better food than wheat health wise. Wheat was termed total menace.
FSSAI‘s opportune order is an effort to at least stop the messing up of Atta and flour through diplomatic labelling. Maida has for long been seen as villain of the piece. At the same time, the regulator has the greater responsibility to bring on science to put wheat in real perspective as wheat is the staple in North India from time immemorial.
However, in the midst of confusion around wheat, FSSAI has ordered packaged food companies to not mess up Atta and Maida. They have been told to ensure that they label Atta as Whole Wheat Flour and Maida as refined wheat flour. The FSSAI has also directed food safety commissioners to keep tab on companies for compliance. The order is the fallout of food business players labelling their products on a sly blurring the difference between Atta and Maida. They are using wheat floor as a general English nomenclature for both Atta and Maida on food products labels.
Many food companies are making health claims to sell packaged atta, bread, biscuit et al but in absence of right labelling, consumers are unable to make informed choices.
The FSSAI order notes: ‘Using the term wheat floor for Maida on the label of the food products does not convey the exact nature of the ingredient used for manufacturing various food items to the consumers as well as enforcement officials.’
The FSSAI are in the receipt of representations form various stakeholders seeking clarity on whether the common name for maida in English for labelling purposes should be wheat flour or refined wheat flour. In its order, FSSAI said, ‘Atta should be labelled as whole wheat flour wherever it is used singly or as an ingredient in a food item. Maida should be labelled as refined wheat flour wherever the same is used singly or as an ingredient in a product.’