Business

Crackdown begins on misleading brand names

A few food brands using names with superlatives have come under scrutiny by the regulator, the Food Control Administration Unit (FCAU), over the past few weeks, The Sunday Morning Business reliably learns.
According to sources, this includes popular products such as Munchee “Super” Cream Cracker, Maliban’s “Original” and “Real” brands, Sera “Real” Coconut Milk, and certain Kist products.
This is due to the Government’s decision to implement a 15-year-old food regulation as per the Food (Labelling and Advertising) Regulations 2005, under the extraordinary gazette issued under the Food Act No. 26 of 1980.
Most of these companies have fought back and justified the product’s names to the regulator. However, a handful of products have failed to back up their names with solid evidence. As a result, these companies have been either penalised or given time to remove the misleading superlatives from the products’ names.
“We are certainly not against removing superlatives that are actually misleading. But we will keep fighting with the Government if they implement this regulation in an impractical manner,” an official in the confectionery industry told The Sunday Morning Business.
Magna Real Jumbo Peanuts, a product of Radiant Confectioners (Pvt.) Ltd., last week became one of the first products to be fined under the newly implemented regulation. Radiant Confectioners pleaded guilty at the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court for misleading the public by using the word “real” when it had not been proven to be real. The company was fined and had pledged to continue the product line without using the word “real”. All attempts to reach Radiant Confectioners for comment were proven futile.
Further, the FCAU has already issued directives to rice companies, including those using the name “Supiri Samba”, with a grace period of three months. This period is to allow them to change their products’ names to exclude misleading superlatives, prove the superlatives are in their product, or scientifically justify its usage.
Companies that do not comply with the requirement even after the three-month grace period would face legal action, according to the FCAU of the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services.
As exclusively reported by The Sunday Morning Business on 19 January, under the headline “No more ‘super’, ‘smart’, or ‘gold’ on biscuits”, the regulation is to discontinue the use of superlatives, including the aforementioned ones, in naming food products, unless those names are scientifically proven.
Due to the impracticality of implementing the regulation, the industry has requested a six-month time period from the FCAU to have a series of discussions with the relevant authorities and industry.
The discussions will be on whether it is practical to implement this regulation and would also look at ways of implementing the regulation without damaging the reputation of the brands that have already gained wide recognition, both locally and internationally.
A senior official from the confectionery industry told us that if the FCAU and the Minister of Health fails to provide a reasonable solution for this issue, they will take it to the court for justice.
Furthermore, the industry also alleges that the implementation of such a regulation out of the blue has been due to local authorities copying an Indian regulation of the same nature, and criticises that such regulations are ill-suited to the Sri Lanka’s food industry.