The food processing industry one of the largest industries in India is widely recognized as a ‘sunrise industry’ in India having huge potential for uplifting the agricultural economy, creation of large scale processed food manufacturing and food chain facilities, and the resultant generation of employment and export earnings.
Laws governing the food industry:
The Indian food processing industry is regulated by several laws which govern the aspects of sanitation, licensing and other necessary permits that are required to start up and run a food business. The legislation that dealt with food safety in India was the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as “PFA”). The PFA had been in place for over five decades and there was a need for change due to varied reasons which include the changing requirements of our food industry.
The act brought into force in place of the PFA is the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as “FSSA”) that overrides all other food related laws. It specifically repealed eight laws which were in operation prior to the enforcement of FSSA:
- The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
- The Fruit Products Order, 1955
- The Meat Food Products Order, 1973
- The Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947
- The Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order, 1998
- The Solvent Extracted Oil, De oiled Meal, and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967
- The Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992
- Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (in relation to food)
Need for the new act:
FSSA initiates harmonization of India’s food regulations as per international standards. It establishes a new national regulatory body, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (hereinafter referred to as “FSSAI”), to develop science based standards for food and to regulate and monitor the manufacture, processing, storage, distribution, sale and import of food so as to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. All food imports will therefore be subject to the provisions of the FSSA and rules and regulations which as notified by the Government on 5th of August 2011 will be applicable.
There are three main features of FSSA: a) Packaging and labelling, b) Signage and Customer Notice and c) Licence registration and health sanitary permits.
Signage and Customer Notice:
It is necessary to understand the statutory and regulatory requirements with respect to signage and customer notices more from the point of view of a food outlet. It is important to note that though the provisions of FSSA do not specifically provide for any statutory and regulatory requirements either for signage or customer notices, but it has certain provisions with regard to advertisement of products by food business operators.
Section 3 (1) (b) of FSSA defines the term “advertisement” (which includes a “notice”) as any audio or visual publicity, representation or pronouncement made by means of any light, sound, smoke, gas, print, electronic media, internet or website and includes through any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice or other documents.
Section 24 of the FSSA provides that no advertisement shall be made of any food which is misleading or deceiving or contravenes the provisions, rules and regulations made there under. No person shall engage himself in any unfair trade practice for purpose of promoting the sale, supply, use and consumption of articles of food or adopt any unfair or deceptive practice including the practice of making any statement, whether orally or in writing or by visible representation which:
- falsely represents that the foods are of a particular standard, quality, quantity or grade-composition;
- makes a false or misleading representation concerning the need for, or the usefulness;
- gives to the public any guarantee of the efficacy that is not based on an adequate or scientific justification thereof, provided that where a defence is raised to the effect that such guarantee is based on adequate or scientific justification, the burden of proof of such defence shall lie on the person raising such defence.
FSSA being applicable to all food business operators in India, the provision with regard to advertisements would have to be complied with.
The FSSA provides for penalties in case of any non compliance. Generally, non-compliance with various provisions of the FSSA may attract penalty of up to Two Lakh Rupees.