August 10, 2008

Sugar-free biscuits, chyawanprash come under health scanner

Sugar-free chyawanprash and biscuits have come under the scanner of health authorities, for containing artificial sweeteners not outlined in existing health-related rules.

The Centre has sounded a note of caution on the use of artificial sweeteners such as saccharine and sucralose in sugar-free chyawanprash and biscuits, besides asking the State drug licensing authorities to review medicines where artificial (and not permitted) sweeteners have been used.

Chyawanprash is an estimated Rs 300-crore market locally, and the more recent sugar-free segment has players such as Baidyanath (with its sugar-free chyawanprash granules), besides Dabur and Ranbaxy whose sugar-free formulations of the product target weight-watchers and consumers with diabetes or sugar-related problems.


Manufacturers will have to mention on their labels, the artificial sweeteners, permissible preservatives and colouring agents used in the product. They would also be responsible for the rationality, safety and quantity of various additives used in the formulation according to the Indian Pharmacopoeia and the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, says the directive from the Union Health Ministry’s Department of Ayush (that handles alternate systems of medicine, including ayurveda, unani and siddha).

Consumers benefit by knowing the quantity of ingredients used in these products, and large players may already be including such details on their labels, said an ayurvedic products manufacturer.

Proprietary products

But, Dabur and Ranbaxy’s sugar-free formulations of chyawanprash may not quite come under the ambit of the Centre’s directive, as they are patent and proprietary products, said an industry expert.

Though Dabur’s sugar-free Chyawanprakash and Ranbaxy’s Chyawan Active include the benefits of chyawanprash, it is not the generic formulation of the product, he explained.

About 60 per cent of chyawanprash consists of sugar-syrup, makers of chyawanprash told Business Line. And companies use artificial sweeteners to make it a health and life-style product, they said. However, they add, manufacturers do not use aspartame (an ingredient in table sweeteners), because it is not heat stable and has safety issues in children and people with kidney problems, he added.

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