'Single nutraceutical platform': Indian organisation ENAC launches nationwide membership drive
The ENAC recently announced its successful registration with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in January, almost three years after its inception in April 2016.
With this, the council hopes to enact initiatives bring together corporations, academics and regulators alike to boost India's nutraceutical industry and benefit public interest.
Two key ambitions are regulatory harmonisation and increased consumer education.
Director Sandeep Gupta told NutraIngredients-Asia: "When the ENAC first started out, the authorities didn't see the need for a harmonised product approval system. As a result, individual trade associations would approach the FSSAI for advice and representation with regards to policy and regulation.
"What I observed was there was no exclusive forum where people from a nutraceutical background could discuss common objectives in this area. I therefore established an advocacy council through which we could advise food business operators (FBOs), manufacturers, academics and the government alike."
He explained that in order to progress, India's nutraceutical industry and public health needed cooperation across industry, academia and government. The best way to achieve this, he added, was through cross-sectoral integration of these entities on 'a single nutraceutical platform'.
The council has thus engaged industry stakeholders to better understand their priorities and level of knowledge, as well as to gauge their receptiveness towards an organisation like the ENAC.
Expansion of education
One of the major initiatives the ENAC will undertake is a nutraceutical-focused curriculum for college students in the pharmaceutical and life science fields, to thoroughly educate them in specific disciplines and help them in taking on specialisations within the industry.
Gupta said: "Whether it's sales, research, regulatory expertise, or technical operations, our goal is to help them become well aware of the subject matter.
"We will also be offering extensive training and workshops to those who are already professionals in the nutraceutical industry, so they will be up to date on policy and able optimise their businesses to benefit public interest."
At the same time, the council is in the midst of developing a comprehensive website that will act as a one-stop digital library for "anyone in any corner of the world who wants to learn about anything related to the nutraceutical industry — not just in India, but globally as well".
He added that while there was no shortage of relevant information available, the main challenge was in knowing how and where to access such information, and the purpose of the website was to fill that gap.
Gupta further revealed that the ENAC will conduct what he referred to as "regulatory orientation programmes", which would ensure that businesses were well-versed with India's regulatory framework in the nutraceutical space.
The council will also regularly update its members on any regulatory changes, in order to fulfil its objective of maintaining and improving compliance among corporations.
This was particularly crucial, Gupta said, because of constant regulatory changes in India's nutraceutical and supplement sector.
"The frequent changes in the regulatory system — as well as many 'experts' offering so many different opinions — often leads to confusion. We want to guide our members along and help them align their activities with the requirements of the law and the needs of the public."
However, he also said that apart from ensuring regulatory awareness and compliance among companies, it was perhaps even more important to help the authorities realise the need for regulatory reform.
"We want to help regulators realise the benefits of standardisation of ingredients. The current lack of standardisation means, for instance, that a company would be unable to develop a probiotic supplement containing butyric acid, which is not on the permitted list of ingredients for nutraceutical products in India.
"However, it has been established as safe by international standards and is commonly used in probiotic products elsewhere."
He further said that independent product approval systems should be 'discarded' in favour of a common, standardised approval system, which would benefit the wider industry.
"There's a lot of scattered knowledge that should be brought together and put towards creating a uniform process, whereby all ENAC members can be represented equally before regulators to work towards harmonisation.
"Regulatory restrictions also mean restricted resources, so we have a responsibility to present the right information to regulators to help them reach a state of standardisation.
"India's nutraceutical industry is one of the world's fastest-growing, and the related available information must catch up with consumer demand. Our goal is not just to work amongst ourselves in India, but cooperate with industry internationally."