QR Codes for Food Labels
- 01 Nov 2023
- 8 min read
Why in News?
Recently, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recommended the inclusion of QR codes on food products for accessibility by visually impaired individuals stating that this will ensure Access to Safe Food for all.
- The FSSAI in 2019 proposed the Front-of-Pack Labeling (FOPL), a key strategy to alert and educate consumers in making an informed choice.
What is QR Code?
- A QR (Quick Response) code, is a type of two-dimensional matrix barcode that can store various types of data, such as alphanumeric text, website URLs, contact information, and more.
- It was invented in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave, primarily for the purpose of tracking and labeling automobile parts.
- QR codes are characterized by their distinctive square shape and a pattern of black squares on a white background, which can be scanned and interpreted using a QR code reader or a smartphone camera.
What are the Key Recommendations of the FSSAI in this Regard?
- FSSAI's Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020:
- The Recommendations are consistent with the FSSAI's Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020.
- It ensures that food manufacturers adhere to labeling requirements, which are essential for food safety and consumer protection.
- Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016:
- By including QR codes for accessibility by visually impaired individuals, the move is in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
- It promotes inclusivity and equal access to essential information.
- Information Provided by QR Codes:
- The QR codes will encompass comprehensive details about the product, including, but not limited to, ingredients, nutritional information, allergens, manufacturing date, best before/expiry/use by date, allergen warning, and contact information for customer enquiries.
- The inclusion of a QR code for the accessibility of information does not replace or negate the requirement to provide mandatory information on the product label, as prescribed by relevant regulations.
What are the Present Concerns Related to Access to Safe Food?
- India is experiencing a significant rise in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted a global increase in NCDs over the last two decades.
- These diseases are partly attributed to the consumption of aggressively marketed, cheaper, and easily available pre-packaged foods, which are becoming increasingly popular among consumers.
What is the Significance of the Move?
- Accessibility for Visually Impaired Individuals:
- These codes can be scanned using smartphone applications, which can then read out the information to the user.
- This ensures that visually impaired consumers have the same access to critical information about food products as sighted individuals, promoting inclusivity and equal access to safe food.
- Comprehensive Information:
- The level of details provided in the QR code empowers all consumers, including those with dietary restrictions or allergies, to make informed choices, reducing the risk of adverse reactions or health issues.
- Informed Decision-Making:
- Consumers can quickly verify the claims made by manufacturers and make choices that support their health and dietary needs.
- This is particularly crucial in a market saturated with pre-packaged foods, as consumers can distinguish between healthier and less healthy options.
- By providing nutritional information and allergen warnings through QR codes, consumers are better equipped to make healthier food choices.
- Global Significance:
- The use of QR codes on food products is not unique to India. Countries like the US, France, the U.K., and India are prominent users of QR codes on food products.
- This aligns with global trends, as consumers worldwide increasingly use QR codes to access information about the products they purchase.
- The inclusion of QR codes on food products in India is a significant step toward improving public health, enhancing consumer protection, and promoting inclusivity. It aligns with global trends in food labeling and empowers consumers to make informed choices about their dietary preferences.
- This initiative demonstrates the commitment of Indian authorities to address the challenges associated with the growing consumption of pre-packaged foods and the rise of NCDs.