Centre asks states to allow manufacture, distribution of packaged foods

The food processing ministry on Thursday sent an advisory to states under a nationwide lockdown to allow manufacturing, transport, distribution and retail of packaged foods and beverages amongst others—a move that’s expected to help companies like PepsiCo, Coke, and Nestle.

Many packaged foods and beverage companies have had to suspend production and distribution of their products due to the lockdown and confusion in what constitutes essential food items.

Pushpa Subrahmanyam, the food processing secretary, said in a communication that in understanding food, the definition of “food” would be as per the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 under which any packaged or loose food article would be defined as a food product. As a result, manufacturing, transportation, distribution and retail of packaged foods and beverages, milk and milk products which include bakery and dairy, animal feed, pet food, infant and baby food, tea and coffee, health supplements, nutraceuticals, food for special medical purposes amongst others are all listed for permission.

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It of course also includes the other essential products which include fruits and vegetables, rice, wheat, sugar, salt, spices, tea and coffee, eggs meat and fish amongst others.

The advisory should help food delivery services, e-commerce companies, cold storages and warehousing establishments. All raw materials, intermediates, packaging material needed to support such products would be permitted.

Earlier many beverage as well as dairy companies say there was confusion on what constitutes essential and non-essential commodities as far as food is concerned. This had led to closures of many facilities manufacturing food products as well as their supplies and distribution were being disallowed. Essential food products, companies point out was being defined as only wheat, rice, deal, salt and some limited product lines.

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The communication also points out that uninterrupted manufacturing of these food products is critical for maintaining supply chain and availability of food to the population.

Just a few days ago companies like PepsiCo, Coke, nestle amongst others had to suspend manufacturing and distribution of most of their products due to the lock down across the country, can now open up their facilities as well as retail their products. PepsiCo’s bottling patterns Varun Beverages had suspended all manufacturing operations and had stated that “in view of the lock down in many states and union territories across the country, production and distribution facilities have been temporarily shut.”. Even Nestle had suspended its operations in many places.