Colour code grace period for biscuit makers

– Implemented only voluntarily from 2 April

– Mandatory from 1 July

– Industry wants six months minimum

By Madhusha Thavapalakumar

The content colour code system for solid food which was initially scheduled to be introduced from 2 April will be made mandatory only from 1 July, according to the Ministry of Health, Nutrition, and Indigenous Medicine.

Food and Drugs Inspector at the Food Control Administration Unit of the Ministry Manjula Jayaweera told The Sunday Morning Business that due to concerns raised by the industry, the Ministry would provide a three-month grace period.

“We are planning to make the content colour code mandatory from 1 July. It has not been finalised yet. It might be extended even beyond that date,” Jayaweera told The Sunday Morning Business.

However, he added that the code would be implemented on a voluntary basis until the Ministry of Health, Nutrition, and Indigenous Medicine finalised a date to make it mandatory.

Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne earlier last week announced a content colour code system indicating the levels of sugar, salt, and fat in liquid, solid, and semi-solid food.

The Sri Lanka Biscuit Manufacturers’ Association President and The Lanka Confectionery Manufacturers Association (LCMA) Vice President S M D Suriyakumara stated that the three-month grace period was insufficient to make the requisite changes to proceed with the colour code implementation.

“The Ministry has given us three months but we are trying to make it six months. We actually need one year, which the Ministry might not consider, but we need at least six months,” he stated.

Suriyakumara attributed the request for a grace period of six months to the production of new cylinders and to the preparation of artwork for labelling, which would cost a considerable amount depending on the artwork and the area of manufacturing.

“We will have to make new cylinders. For one cylinder, it will take a month. We have to do the full artwork from scratch.”

Suriyakumara noted that usually, food companies pre-order their wrappers at least three to four months in advance and therefore, the companies now have to wait out that period until stocks with pre-ordered wrappers are sold out before using new wrappers with the colour code.

He added that the industry was not in a position to implement the content colour code for the whole range of products by 2 April but would voluntarily implement it on the products one by one and introduce them to the market with new labels.

“We are trying to start each company voluntarily as we are going to launch the colour code for just a few products. We are going to print at least one or two products, especially from the Biscuit Manufacturers’ Association while we will do the balance one by one.”

Meanwhile, Maliban Biscuit Manufactories Ltd. General Manager of Quality Assurance and Research Development Warna Fernando told us that Maliban would implement the regulation as soon as it is gazetted.

“The Health Ministry gave us a draft but it has not been gazetted. First, they have to gazette it, after that, we will be able to implement it”, Fernando stated.

However, she emphasised the importance of providing a sufficient grace period, highlighting the difficulty in implementing the regulation for a wide product range within a short period of time.

“For each and every product scale we have to pay Rs. 2 million. We have to get cylinders worth Rs. 2 million for each and every scale. We have decided to go forward, but the only thing we need is little bit of time.”

A Ceylon Biscuits Ltd. (CBL) official who wished to remain anonymous told us that they will implement colour coding voluntarily from 2 April for a few products and upon the gazette issuance, CBL would implement the code for all of its products.

“We need at least a one-year grace period to finish off the project – the entire product portfolio – but we can initiate it once it is gazetted. That means, at the end of one year, there shouldn’t be any non-compliance label in the market,” the official stated.

The colour coding system will be brought in under the Food Act No. 26 of 1980 and will be implemented upon the subject minister’s approval.

The Ministry of Health has been implementing a colour coding system for foods since August 2016 for sugar content on beverages, and now it has decided to extent the coding to food items based on the sugar, salt, and fat contents.

Accordingly, all foods with a sugar content exceeding 22 g per 100 g of food would be marked in red, with sugar content from 8 g to 22 g being marked in yellow, and those with less than 8 g marked in green.

If the salt content is over 1.25 g per 100 g, the items should be marked red, from 0.25 g to 1.25 g yellow, and if less than 0.25 g per 100 g, the items should be marked green.

For fats, foods over 17.5 g of fat per 100 g should be marked red, from 3-17.5 g per 100 g yellow, and less than 3 g should be marked green.

However, these regulations will not be applied to milk, vegetables, fruits, rice, tea, coffee, bottled water, medically prescribed foods, baby foods, and infant formula.