The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has ordered all e-commerce platforms to delist non-dairy and plant-based products classified as dairy products. On September 3, the food regulator issued a notification informing e-commerce food business operators (FBOs) to not offer such dairy alternatives under the dairy category.
The new rules will impact both the new-age companies and direct-to-consumer (D2C) dairy alternatives. Such alternatives include Raw Pressery, Epigamia, Urban Platter, and Goodmylk, as well as FMCG giants like Sofit (Hershey’s) and Amul.
What does the notice say?
According to the FSSAI, there are several exceptions to the ‘dairy’ phrase. The phrase could be used for goods like coconut milk, peanut butter, and others. Further, the term “curd” does not primarily refer to dairy products and also encompasses non-dairy goods such as soybean curd.
As per the notice, if any e-commerce company is found guilty during the investigation, it will be given 15 days to enhance or change product labels and comply with the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011. The decision affects e-commerce platforms including Amazon India, Flipkart, BigBasket, and Grofers, among others.
FSSAI has asked the State Food Safety Departments to investigate and identify specific instances of e-commerce platform violations.
Need for clarity
The FSSAI has not stated which plant-based or non-dairy product it is targeting. Oat milk, rice milk, walnut milk, flax milk, soy milk, and other products claim to be alternatives to cow/buffalo milk at the moment.
The present notice is not a major source of concern for e-commerce platforms relying on consumer electronics and apparel to drive their sales. However, one cannot say the same for plant-based and dairy alternative startups. Further, such platforms rely on the major e-commerce platforms to sell their products. If e-commerce platforms remove these businesses’ products from the dairy category and place them in a newly created “non-dairy” category, product discovery may suffer, resulting in a drop in sales.
You can read the notice/order here.