India: FSSAI Issues New Rules For Import Of Food

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), India's food regulator has issued new norms for the import, labelling and packaging of products imported to India so as to do away with the concerns of sub-standard products entering the country. The FSSAI, on 14th January came out with a notice for operationalization of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Import) Regulations, 2016 for food importers. However the notice shall come into force from such date as may be notified by the Food Authority by publication in the Official Gazette.

Some of the notable highlights of the said Regulation are as under:

Licensing of Food Importers/FBOs

  • The food importer shall register himself with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).
  • Food importer must have a valid Import-Export code.
  • An import license1 from the Central Licensing Authority is necessary for import of food.
  • A food item must have at least 60% shelf life remaining at the time of its custom clearance.

Grounds for cancellation or suspension of Licence:

  • License can be cancelled or suspended in accordance with the provisions of Food Safety and Standards (licensing and registration of food businesses), Regulations 2011.
  • If DO/AO2 has reasons to believe that the food importer has attempted to import unsafe food, prohibited food or food from prohibited sources as is provided under the act either directly or indirectly.
  • When the food importer didn't comply with the license, regulations or undertaking of intended end use.
  • Suspension, revocation or cancellation of certificate of Import-Export Code granted by DGFT shall immediately and automatically render the import license cancelled and no further notice shall be served on the food importer.

Such cancellation due to suspension, revocation or cancellation of certificate of Import-Export code shall be reconsidered and granted within 7 days of an application being made by the importer for a license if such suspension has been withdrawn or set aside or a fresh certificate has been issued to the importer by the DGFT.

Appointment of Customs House Agent:

Food importer must duly inform AO/DO about the particulars of his Customs House Agent (CHA) and the authority granted to him. Further the importer must also inform about modification or withdrawal of any authority in respect of CHA within 3 days of such modification. The application must provide that the Food importer and the CHA shall be jointly and severally liable for any contravention of Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) Act 2006 and its rules and regulations. The format for the appointment of the CHA is provided under Schedule 1. It must contain the following details:

  • Name of the importer, his address and contact no.
  • Food item to be imported
  • Country of origin of consignment
  • Bill of entry no.
  • Name of the CHA
  • CHA's licence no.

The application must be stamped or sealed along with the Importer's signatures.

Clearance of Imported Food by the Food Authority

  1. The food Importer or his CHA shall submit an application3 for clearance of Import consignment wherein particulars of the Food Importer or the CHA like Name, Address, Contact No., Email id, Food Importer Code No., CHA's license no., etc are required.

Such application shall contain the following details (in no particular order):

  • Date of manufacture/Packaging of food items
  • Date of Expiry/ Best before of the food item
  • FSS code as published by the FSSAI of the food consignment,
  • Name of exporting country,
  • Date of Dispatch from the exporting country and Date of entry of goods,
  • Country of origin (if any),
  • Country of Manufacture (if any),
  • Transit Country(ies) (if any),
  • Quantity of Food and Food/Consignment description
  • Invoice value (INR)
  • Container location and container id.

Following documents shall be submitted along with the application form [MANDATORY]

  • Basic Particulars as prescribed in Form 'A';
  • Bill of Entry and Examination Order generated by the EDI system of Central Board of Excise and Customs;
  • Certificate of Country of Origin (COO);
  • End Use Declaration;
  • Laboratory Analysis Report from an authorised laboratory in the country of origin.
  • Recall plan
  • Declaration on Regulatory status of food in the country of origin and free sale certificate with declaration that the food is permitted for human consumption in country of origin and also if the parent company is located at a place different from country of manufacture, status of Regulation of that product in the location of the parent company.

Compulsory documents applicable for particular consignment along with above mentioned documents:

  • Transit Country List;
  • Special Transit conditions e.g. Temperature profile report in case the food item is required to be trans-shipped under cold chain;
  • Any other document or report that may be demanded by the AO.
  1. The food importer must pay the fee for scrutiny of documents, visual inspection and drawing of samples. For multiple categories of foods having single Bill of Entry, inspection fee shall be payable for each food item proposed for inspection.
  2. The food importer of CHA shall be present at the customs area at the appointed time to participate and facilitate visual inspection, assist in the drawing of samples (if required), import clearance proceedings, witness proceedings, sealing of samples and affix his counter signature on the sealed samples.
  3. The food importer shall facilitate the visual inspection and collection of samples as per the Stuffing list. The food importer shall assist in de-stuffing the container.
  4. If the food importer or CHA is not present to facilitate the inspection in spite of two opportunities being granted, the AO shall refuse to grant further opportunity. Any such opportunity shall then be granted by the CEO or his authorized representative after levy of suitable penalty on the food importer.

Packaging and Labelling Requirements

  1. The consignments shall comply with the provision of Labelling and Packaging Regulation, 2011.
  2. Further, any consignment of multiple food or food falling under different categories packed in a single container shall be packed in such a manner so as to facilitate the inspection and collection of samples from the consignment.
  3. Special exemptions on labelling for information on name and address of the importer, FSSAI logo, Non-Veg/Veg logo can be affixed by the importer upon arrival of imported food consignment in the custom bonded warehouse. The AO shall pass an order directing the food importer to carry out the permissible labelling rectification within a prescribed time in the customs area without altering or masking the original Label information. Such deficiency shall be rectified by affixing a single non detachable sticker or by any other non detachable method. Upon such rectification by the food importer, AO shall carry out a re-inspection.
  4. If food importer fails to rectify the permissible defects within the prescribed time, the AO may pass an order refusing clearance of such imported food and issue a NCC.
  5. No other deficiency in label is allowed to be rectified and such consignment not complying with the provisions of labelling and packaging regulation shall be rejected at the visual inspection and no samples shall be drawn from the consignment.
  6. The sealed sample of imported Food shall bear the following information on the Label:
  • Code number of the Sample;
  • Date and place of collection;
  • Quantity of Sample;
  • Name of food;
  • Name and Quantity of preservative added while drawing the Sample, if any;
  • Name and signature of the Food Importer or his/her CHA;
  • Name and signature of the sender with official seal.

No-Objection Certificate:

The Authorised Officer can issue either of the two documents: No Objection Certificate (NOC) or Non Conformance Report (NCR). A NCR cites the grounds for refusal of Import clearance and the date on which the clearance of food was refused. A NOC is issued after assessing the safety of the food and permits the import of the food. It states the validity period within which the food has to be taken out by the Food Importer from the Customs area.

Review process:

The food importer can file a review application to the review officer on being aggrieved by any one of the following orders of the AO:

  • Rejecting the clearance of the imported food article ion non-compliance with any of the conditions
  • Any order directing the food importer to rectify the labelling of the food article.
  • Rejection report issued on receipt of a non-conformance report from food analyst

Format of Review Application:

The review application shall be presented to the Review officer with the prescribed fee and the documents within 7 working days from the date of communication of rejection report to the food importer.

Such application can be accepted after the period prescribed if the review officer is satisfied that food importer had sufficient cause for not presenting it within that period.

The review application4 shall contain the following import details:

  • Date of import
  • Point of import
  • Name of food article under consideration
  • Product type
  • Invoice value of food article
  • Whether the goods are perishable or not
  • Balance shell life of the food item
  • End usage

Further, the review application should have the rejection report details:

  • Date of rejection report sought to be reviewed
  • Name of the authority who passed the impugned order
  • Place where the impugned order was passed
  • FSS (food import) regulation under which the rejection report was passed.
  • Relief claimed in the appeal
  • Grounds of appeal (must be numbered)
  • Statement of facts
  • A verification form should be present stating that the information disclosed in the review application is true to the best of the knowledge of the appellant.

Footnotes

1. Guidelines for same are provided under Food safety and standards (licensing and registration of food businesses), Regulations 2011.

2. AO/DO refers to authorized officer/designated officer.

3. Format for application for inspection and clearance of imported food provided under SCHEDULE 2

4. Format for the review application provided under SCHEDULE 16

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Authors
Nishi Shabana
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