The Indian Dairy Association in association with SMC College of Dairy Science, Anand Agricultural University, organized a seminar on “Dairy Products or Imitations: Consumer Dilemma” in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
The seminar was organized to bring together key stakeholders of dairy industry viz., dairy professionals, academicians, policymakers and consumers to discuss with them the impact of analogue/imitation products on dairy industry.
Shri HG Koshia, Commissioner, FDCA, Gujarat, and Shri Meenesh Shah, Executive Director, NDDB addressed the gathering.
Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the seminar, Shri Koshia said, “Analogues or imitation products are products which are similar both physically as well as functionally to the original product. For want of standards, manufacturers of analogues are playing within the ambit of the law. It is high time to finalize standards of milk products.”
He cited the example of paneer, saying that real paneer costs Rs. 300-350 per kilo, while the analogue product, which appears and tastes similar to paneer, costs Rs. 150.
“In most cases, the analogues are substituted due to cost advantage,” he said.
The FDCA chief also said that they are taking strict action against units indulging in misbranding and producing substandard food products.
“We have also initiated criminal proceedings in cases where the food products are found to be unsafe,” he added.
In a presentation during the seminar, Mr Kuldeep Sharma, MD of Suruchi Consultants, said, “The biggest issue is that consumers are not aware about use of analogues, and at the same time, food regulation does not define these categories clearly. The regulator must bring clarity on what comes under milk and milk products. The use of dairy terms, and even those that sound or spell similar, should be banned for non-dairy product.”
Analogue/imitation products are products which are similar both physically as well as functionally to the original product. Imitations or analogue products are designed and manufactured using cheap ingredients which substitute partially or wholly the original ingredient of the product these imitate. For example, milk fat, which is costly, is often substituted with cheap vegetable fats/oils tomanufacture products like margarine/vegetable fat spreads (imitating butter), frozen desserts (imitating ice-cream), filled cheese (imitating natural cheese), filled cream (imitating dairy cream),burfi (imitating sweetened khoa), etc. Additionally vegetable proteins are also used to substitute milk protein in some of the above-mentioned products.
Analogue/imitation products remains a big challenge to the dairy industry of India and if proliferation of such look-alike dairy products, made out of using cheaper ingredients is not stopped, the dairy farming in India shall be hurt to a point of no return.
To safeguard the interest of dairy farmers on one hand and the misled consumers on the other hand, the entire dairy fraternity along with Government of India is working hand-in-hand by creating awareness among consumers through advertisements, seminars, etc. as well as framing appropriate regulations to differentiate between dairy products and their analogue/imitations.
Various regulations have been drafted and enforced by regulators both nationally as well as internationally to safeguard interest of dairy farmers as well as consumers as a whole. Various states of USA had implemented ban on yellow colored margarine to ensure that the product is not masqueraded as butter. Implementation of coloring margarine pink, popularly known as the “pink law” was also an effort taken up to easily differentiate it from butter. Canada also followed steps taken by the USA and after a considerable period of 4-5 decades of implementation of stringent regulations, these bans were removed. This helped in creating awareness among consumers and helping them to make a judicious choice. USA has also proposed The Dairy Pride Act which specifically deals with analogue/imitation products which would protect the integrity of dairy products by enforcing existing labeling requirements.
Indian apex food regulator FSSAI has also operationalized the standards of milk and milk products with-effect-from 1st of July, 2018 which redefines milk and milk products in a more comprehensive manner especially taking into consideration the applicability of “dairy terms” under section 3 of the regulation. Still, the business of analogue/imitation dairy products is proliferating unabated and profusely in India. Strict enforcement of the revised regulation is the need of the hour as is efficient consumer awareness campaigns by the dairy fraternity.
This seminar helped ensure discussion on these points and created a road map to address the issue of Analogue/imitation products in the dairy industry among all the key stakeholders.