What are Regulations for Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses?
According to the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulation, 2011, it is mandatory for all food businesses operators, manufacturers, importers, distributers, wholesalers, retailers, hotels, restaurants, eateries, as well as petty food businesses to have an FSSAI registration/license so they are in compliance with the FSS Act. Food businesses with an annual turnover up to INR 12,00,000 need a registration certificate. Food businesses, with an annual turnover above this amount, need a license.
There are two types of licenses: a central license, issued by the central government, and a state license, issued by any of the state governments. The central license is issued on the basis of manufacturing capacity, as well as turnover. Those operating food businesses within an Indian state need a state license that is also based on capacity or turnover. Those that operate businesses in two or more states require an additional central license for head office/registered office and separate license/registration for other locations they operate in. Only transporters need a singular license/registration for all vehicles an individual transporter runs. Those food business operators that deal with non-standardized products have to first apply for the product approval and only then they can obtain a license under the licensing and registration regulations. All importers and exporters have to obtain a central license from FSSAI.
What is FSSAI Compliance Criterion for Import of Food Products to India?
Food articles imported to India from foreign countries and distributed in India need to conform to the FSSAI regulations or suffer restrictions on import. The FSSAI also has stringent regulations for packaging and labeling under Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulation, 2011.
These two reasons serve to demonstrate why imported food articles, worth millions of dollars, languish in various Indian ports. For example, all chocolates, as defined in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011are to be prepared from milk. They cannot contain any vegetable oil or fats. Labels need to mention artificial flavors usedto comply with FSSAI regulations. If these guidelines are not adhered to then chocolates are not permitted to enter Indian markets. Global chocolate manufacturing giants Lindt, Cadbury, Mars, and Ferrero are suffering a huge loss as a consequence.
Alcoholic beverages including beer are suffering the same fate. FSSAI stipulates that all ingredients, including additives need to be mentioned on labels in descending order of their composition by weight and volume, which for alcoholic beverages, is not always possible. Liquor imports have therefore fallen, since labels that fail to mention additives, like color, water, flavoring, and preservatives are all withheld at ports. Another stipulation for food products is to have “inseparable labels” and not stickers. Food products with detachable labels are withheld. FSSAI opines that it is only trying to ensure consumer safety as some of these stickers are only in Chinese and Japanese so consumers cannot understand what’s written. These reasons have compelled many foreign companies to withdraw from India.
Some of the other FSSAI compliance criteria for labeling of imported food include:
- Language on labels must be in English as per FSSAI Regulations, 2011.
- “Vegetarian” or “Non-Vegetarian” must be declared by affixing the symbol for “Vegetarian” or “Non-Vegetarian” on packages
- Mention name and complete address of the importer in India;
- Mention net weight or number or measure of volume of contents;
- Mention batch number or lot number or code number, and FSSAI license number;
- Mention month and year in which the commodity is manufactured or prepared;
- Declare “Best Before” date on the package;
- Mention nutritional information or nutritional facts per 100 grams or 100 milliliter per serving of food product on the label;
- Name and address of the manufacturer should be mentioned on the label and
- FSSAI logo and license number of the importer should be available on the label.
How Do the Indian Regulations Compare with Global Standards?
The Indian food safety regulations, as implemented by the FSSAI, are primarily based on the Codex Alimentarius. The Codex was formed with the collaborative efforts of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, two eminent United Nations health and food bodies. The Codex Alimentarius international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice contribute to the safety and quality of the food that reaches consumers. Since the FSSAI regulations are framed on the guidelines of the Codex Alimentarius, they adhere to international standards. Other international standards formulated by global agencies like the European Food Safety Authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and the