No such thing as ‘health drinks’, deems FSSAI: Dairy products are not ‘energy drinks’

FSSAI said these are licensed as proprietary foods as there is no category called health drinks under the act that governs food products in the country.

BySumit Jha

Published Apr 06, 2024 | 8:00 AM Updated Apr 06, 2024 | 4:58 PM

No such thing as ‘health drinks’, deems FSSAI: Dairy products are not ‘energy drinks’

When people look for “health drinks” on search engines like Google, they are bombarded with hundreds of products categorised as health drinks. From brands like Bournvita to generic chocolate-flavoured drinks, all are being marked under “health drinks”.

However, according to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), no product is officially recognised as a “health drink”.

To issue a warning and address the usage of terms like “health drinks”, the FSSAI — a statutory body responsible for regulating the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food articles, while also establishing standards to ensure food safety — has directed all ecommerce food business operators (FBOs) to ensure the proper categorisation of food products being sold on their websites.

The FSSAI said these were licensed as proprietary foods as there was no category called “health drinks” under the act that governed food products in the country.

“Proprietary foods” are items of food that are not standardised in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation and Food Safety and Standards (Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Food for Special Dietary Use, Food for Special Medical Purpose, Functional Food, and Novel Food) Regulations, but use standardised ingredients.

The FSSAI order noted: “This corrective action aims to enhance clarity and transparency regarding the nature and functional properties of the products, ensuring that consumers can make well-informed choices without encountering misleading information.”

This regulation is expected to apply to all websites and apps that sell food products, including food delivery applications like Swiggy or Zomato, grocery delivery apps such as Blinkit or Zepto, as well as general ecommerce websites like Amazon.

Also Read: FSSAI asks airlines, caterers to reveal nature, manufacturing details of inflight meals

Other concerns

When you step out into the scorching sun in summer, you often feel the immediate urge to grab a bottle of water or perhaps something sweet to quench your thirst. As you reach the store, you’re confronted with numerous packets labelled as “health drinks”. You pick one and start gulping it down.

The FSSAI said the term “energy’ drinks” was permitted to be used only on the products licensed under Food Category System (FCS) and (carbonated and non-carbonated water-based flavoured drinks), standardised under sub-regulation 2.10.6 (2) of the Food Product Standards and Food Additives Regulations of 2011 (Caffeinated Beverage).

It also noted instances of food products licensed under “proprietary food’ with the nearest category — dairy-based beverage mix, cereal-based beverage mix, or malt-based beverage — being sold on ecommerce websites under categories like “Health Drink” or “Energy Drink”.

“The FSSAI has clarified that the term ‘health drink’ is not defined or standardised anywhere under the FSS Act 2006 or rules/regulations made thereunder. Therefore, the FSSAI has advised all ecommerce FBOs to promptly rectify this misclassification by removing or de-linking such drinks or beverages from the category of ‘health drinks’ or ‘energy drinks’ on their websites and placing such products in the appropriate category as provided under the extant law,” the regulator said.

Also Read: Kerala tops FSSAI’s Food Safety Index, Tamil Nadu slips to 3rd slot

‘Energy drinks’

Energy drinks are popular among adolescents and young adults, being marketed as products that enhance energy levels and physical performance.

The main ingredients in energy drinks are caffeine and sugar, with some containing additional stimulants and energy boosters like B vitamins, guarana, and ginseng. These drinks are known to increase alertness and energy levels due to their caffeine content.

However, World Health Organisation research indicates that exceeding caffeine limits can have various adverse effects on both children and adults, including changes in behaviour and palpitations.

“Also, excessive consumption of these drinks poses significant health risks, such as renal damage, elevated blood pressure, obesity, and type-2 diabetes,” said Hyderabad-based nutritionist NV Anjali.

She added that given that many of these beverages are marketed as energy drinks, the FSSAI noted that several prominent ones in the Indian market contain caffeine in amounts exceeding the recommended daily intake limit.

So, the FSSAI guidelines say caffeinated non-alcoholic beverages that contain more than 145 mg of caffeine per litre are energy drinks.

“The maximum permitted caffeine level must not exceed 300 mg per litre. Sucralose should not exceed 300 parts per million (ppm), and saccharin sodium should not exceed 100 ppm. Neotame has a permitted limit of 33 ppm, while the methyl ester concentration should not exceed 770 ppm,” said Anjali.

“Additionally, when you examine these products, you’ll notice they are often brightly coloured to attract consumer attention. However, the information about the product is typically written in very small letters, which the manufacturers may not want consumers to read. It’s a tactic employed by these beverage companies. Nonetheless, for anyone purchasing these drinks, it’s crucial to ensure consumption is in limited quantities,” she pointed out.

Also, the companies marketing energy drinks are required to comply with special labelling regulations. They must declare “high caffeine” along with the quantity of caffeine on the product, and there should be a prominent display stating: “Not recommended for children, pregnant and lactating women, persons sensitive to caffeine.”

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)