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Food Safety Laws and the Role of FSSAI in India

calendar21 Aug, 2023
timeReading Time: 12 Minutes
Food Safety Laws and the Role of FSSAI in India

Food is the most fundamental and vital for living life to the fullest. Even though the right to food is not expressly mentioned in the Indian Constitution, it is carried through different parts of it, such as under Article 21, Article 38, Article 42, and Article 47. The food industry in India has never experienced a decline since its independence, and it is a large sector. The food industry is divided into a number of segments, all of which are connected. Farmers who grow specific fruits, vegetables, grains, etc., are associated with businesses that make packaged and processed foods that are ready-to-eat or edible end products.  According to the Food Safety Index Report 2021-2022 produced by the FSSAI, Tamil Nadu maintains the top spot in the list of Index Rankings for the Large States, followed by Gujarat in second place, Maharashtra in third place, and Andhra Pradesh in fourth place.

The author’s goal in writing this article is to analyse the functioning of the current Indian food safety regime. Key parts such as the FSSAI’s functions, composition, challenges, and initiatives are all explored further down in this article. 

Need of food safety laws in India

Consuming safe, wholesome food can improve one’s health and safeguard consumers against illnesses. It is essential to maintain food safety at every level. As a result, food should be kept at a higher standard from manufacturing through consumption.

The adoption of food safety laws in india is motivated by two factors:-

  • To regulate the food’s nutritional requirements
  • To keep a clean environment for making and processing food.

Every Indian citizen has the right to have wholesome, hygienic meals under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, 1949. If this privilege is infringed, Articles 21 and Article 47 of the Indian Constitution, which primarily deal with food items that are not intended for consumption, come into play. As a result, protecting the right to eat healthy food in India and enacting laws governing food policies are now obligations imposed by the constitution on the states. 

Right to food: A Fundamental Right

Although it should not be a pipe dream but rather a reality, many families still believe living a life of dignity to be a fantasy in many key developing and impoverished nations.

The United Nations initially recognised the right to food as a human right in 1948 with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; later, it was incorporated into the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The right to food is safeguarded by international law under the following:-

  • Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Article 24 & Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Supreme Court in its landmark ruling in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India & Others (PUCL) (2001), which is also known as the ‘Right to Food case’, interpreted the right to live with dignity to include the right to food, so affirmatively embracing the right to food as a basic right under Article 21. Through this judgment the court also established the minimal standard of nutrition for India’s millions of undernourished citizens

Other important judgments related to Right to Food 

  • According to the court’s ruling in Chameli Singh and Others v. State of U.P. & Anr. (AIR 1996 SC 1051), everyone has the right to a standard of living suitable for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical treatment, and necessary social services.
  • Olga Tellis & Ors v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1986 AIR 180)  - When defining the right to life in relation to the right to livelihood, the court came to the conclusion that if the right to livelihood is not treated as a part of the constitutional right to live, the simplest method to revoke a person’s right to life would be to systematically deny him access to his means of subsistence until that right is revoked. 
  • C.E.S.C Ltd. v. Subhash Chandra Bose (1992 AIR 573) -  In this matter, the court determined that the right to health is a component of the right to life and took into account the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Conventions of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which include the right to food, leisure, fair salaries, and good working conditions, among other things, as a component of the right to life. 

Evolution of Right to Food Security in India over the time 

  • The “Public Distribution Scheme” was first implemented in its current form in June 1947, but it was first introduced on January 14, 1945, as a general entitlement programme during the Second World War.
  • In 1951, “the Public Distribution Scheme” remained a key social assistance scheme.
  • Food Corporation of India and the Agriculture Price Commission were established in 1995.
  • The “Public Distribution Scheme” was given a new and better form in 1997 to specifically target BPL and APL households. It was also well-known under the name “Target Public distribution plan.” 
  • In 2001, the Supreme Court issued an interim ruling in the Public Union of Civil Liberties case, extending the Indian Constitution’s Article 21’s provision of the right to life to include the “right to food.”
  • When the Congress party won the 2009 election, they pledged in their manifesto to put the “Right to Food” into effect.
  • 2013: On July 5, 2013, the National Food Security Act went into force. 

About NFSA

NFSA is also known as the National Food Security Act of 2013. The Act came into existence on July 5, 2013, by passing an Ordinance. The motive behind passing such legislature was to provide access to the right quantity of good quality food at affordable prices to people who are indigenous, disadvantageous section, marginalised and vulnerable classes of people, to live a life with dignity. 

The objectives of the Act were defined by the Supreme Court in the case of Chameli Singh and Anr. v. State of U.P. & Anr. (AIR1996 SC 1051). 

The Act provides a coverage of up to 75 per cent of the rural population and up to 50 per cent of the urban population for receiving food grains at a subsidised rate under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). The eligible persons is entitled to receive 5 Kgs of food grains per person per month at subsidised prices. The Act also focuses on the nutritional support for women and children.

The NFSA talks about two kings of beneficiaries, and these are as follows:-

  1. Priority Households (PHH);
  2. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households.

What is FSSAI? 

In order to properly monitor food quality and hygienic practises in India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) was established in 2008. It began operating in 2011 and has been in charge of overseeing food safety in our nation ever since.

The FSSAI’s administrative centre is in New Delhi. Additional regional offices for the authority are located in Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kolkata, Cochin, and Chennai.  The Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 states that the organization has been established in accordance with the provisions of the FSS Act.

The Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 states: 

An Act to Consolidate the Food Laws and Establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for establishing science-based standards for articles of food and regulating their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import in order to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters related to or incidental thereto.” 

Until this legislation was passed, the following acts were used to regulate the country’s food security: 

  • Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947 
  • Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 
  • Fruit Products Order, 1955 
  • Meat Food Products Order, 1973 

Initiatives taken by FSSAI for food security in India

FSSAI has declared 7th June as the world food safety day. Keeping in mind the food safety and to maintain the food standards, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has taken many initiatives, and these are as follows: 

  • Eat Right India

The aim behind this initiative is to provide the good quality food to every citizen of this country. 

  • Clean Street Food 

The aim behind this initiative is to make street food vendors aware of food quality standards with the violation under the FSS Act of 2006. Through this initiative, we can see a social and economic up-liftment of street food vendors.

  • Diet4Life

The aim behind this initiative is to help people understand about metabolic disorders. It provides a comprehensive platform to parents, Health care professionals and parent support groups to adopt the right approach towards Inborn Errors of metabolism (IEM) management.

  • Save Food, Share Food

The aim behind this initiative is to encourage people to avoid food wastage and start donating food to the needy ones. With this FSSAI aims to connect the food collecting agencies with the food producing companies so that food can be distributed among the needy ones.

Functions of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India

The FSSAI has to perfume the following functions in order to maintain the food standards in India:-

  • To set rules and guidelines regarding the food security and food standard which needs to be followed by all the food manufacturing companies in India.
  • FASSAI also keeps a check on  hygiene and food safety of packed food items;
  • To grant fssai registration license to food operators;
  • To test the food standards and food quality of the food manufacturers and keep updating such standards;
  • To regularly audit and inspect the food produced and manufactured in India;
  • To keep the Central Government updated about all the food standard and help the government to develop new rules and regulation regarding food security in India;
  • The authority is also responsible for maintaining the records and data of all the registered organizations in India.

Powers given to FSSAI 

The FFS Act has given the following powers to FSSAI:-

  • To frame rules and regulations regarding the food standard in India.
  • To lay down guidelines for food testing laboratories in India
  • To provide scientific as well as technical support to the Central Government;
  • It contributes in developing different international standards for food. 
  • It promotes awareness regarding the food safety, food standards and food nutrition in India;
  • It collects data regarding the food consumption, contamination and then suggests changes in the food laws.

Challenges in front of FSSAI

Mentioned below is the list of challenges that needs to be overcome by the FSSAI in India:-

  • To compel organization in food industry to set-up a proper laboratory for testing the quality of food items;
  • Need to arrange qualified manpower who will test and approve the standards of food that is being manufactured in India;
  • To re-evaluated the rules and regulation of food security as per the international standards;  
  • To adopt advance technologies while testing food standards.  

FSS Act of 2006 

At this point, food safety is of the utmost importance. Even if today’s consumers of various food items are more informed than ever before, the problem of hazardous food still exists. The idea of food safety is covered by both criminal and civil laws. Numerous laws in our nation address the problem of food safety. The subject of food safety was identified under the reign of the British.

The FSS Act of 2006’s definition of food safety states that: According to Section 3(q) of the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006, food safety is the guarantee that the food is fit for human consumption.

  • Important section under the Act 

Chapter 2 talks about the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India

  • Section 4 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the establishment of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. 

Chapter 4 talks about the general provisions as to articles of food

  • Section 19 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the Use of food additive or processing aid. 
  • Section 20 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the contaminants, naturally occurring toxic substances, heavy metals, etc. 
  • Section 21 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the pesticides, veterinary drugs residues, antibiotic residues and microbiological counts. 
  • Section 22 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the genetically modified foods, organic foods, functional foods, proprietary foods, etc. 
  • Section 23 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the packaging and labelling of foods. 
  • Section 24 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the restrictions of advertisement and prohibition as to unfair trade practices. 

Chapter 5 talks about the provisions relating to import

  • Section 25 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the all imports of articles of food to be subject to this Act. 

Chapter 6 talks about the special responsibilities as to Food Safety

  • Section 26 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the responsibilities of the food business operator. 
  • Section 27 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the liability of the manufacturers, packers, wholesalers, distributors and sellers. 

Chapter 9 talks about the offences and penalties

  • Section 48 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the general provisions relating to offences. 
  • Section 49 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the general provisions relating to penalty. 
  • Section 50 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the penalty for selling food not of the nature or substance or quality demanded. 
  • Section 52 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the penalty for misbranded food. 
  • Section 53 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the penalty for misleading advertisement. 
  • Section 54 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the penalty for food containing extraneous matter. 
  • Section 55 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the penalty for failure to comply with the directions of Food Safety Officer. 
  • Section 56 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the penalty for unhygienic or unsanitary processing or manufacturing of food. 
  • Section 59 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the punishment for unsafe food. 
  • Section 60 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the punishment for interfering with seized items. 
  • Section 61 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the punishment for false information. 
  • Section 62 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the punishment for obstructing or impersonating a Food Safety Officer. 
  • Section 63 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the Punishment for carrying out a business without licence. 
  • Section 65 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the compensation in case of injury or death of consumer. 
  • Section 67 of the FSS Act, 2006 talks about the penalty for contravention of provisions of this Act in case of import of articles of food to be in addition to penalties provided under any other Act.  

Different types of FSSAI licenses in India that you can collect?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India creates an information network among the citizen of India about food safety. All Food business operators, manufacturers, import, packers, distributors, marketers, hotel, resorts, canteen, mobile food vendors, wine shop, club, bar and restaurant, home stay , bakery, sweets stall, dairy units, packaged drinking water units or seller, fruits and vegetables shops, chicken, fish, egg, mutton shop, street food vendors, storage, ware house, retailer, temple, marriage hall, fair price shop, office and school canteen, government and private hostels, midday meals school, anganawadi, child care center comes under this act and there they must collect their FSSAI license before operating business in India.  

There are various type FSSAI license in India, which has led to considerable uncertainty among food industry owners regarding eligibility. You must carefully examine you’re the size and kind of your food business before taking the FSSAI License.

The size, scope, yearly revenue are some of the factors behind the classification of FSSAI lisence in India. There are 3 types of food licensing in India as discussed below.

  • FSSAI basic license

Under this category, operators of food businesses with an annual turnover of up to 12 lakhs are required to obtain a basic FSSAI license. All small-scale business owners who operate petty food producers, small-sized manufacturers, retailers, transporters, marketers, distributors, storage facilities, etc. are included in this category. Typically, they would be based out of and operating locally in a specific location, region, city, or town. This license has a one-year minimum and a five-year maximum term. The State government is the one who issues the fssai registration.

  • FSSAI state license

Small to medium-sized food producers, merchants, transporters, marketers, distributors, and storage facilities must get an FSSAI State license from the State administration. It is typically for organisations with an annual revenue of more than 12 lakhs, and has a minimum duration of one and a maximum tenure of five years.

  • FSSAI Central licence

Operators in the food industry, including all the big manufacturers, export-oriented businesses, importers, and employees of central government agencies, must get an FSSAI registration. This licence is mostly for businesses that generate more than 20 crores annually. The central licence is issued by the central government[1]. An FSSAI central licence should be obtained by food business owners who operate many locations or across several states.

Documents required for FSSAI registration

Food Business Operators (FBOs) involved in the following kinds of food business are mandatorily documents required for FSSAI registration:-

  • A passport-size photo of the applicant
  • Photograph of the applicant
  • A copy of government-authorised Identity proofs of the food business operator, which should include the following:
  • A copy of the Ration card
  • A copy of the Voter ID
  • A copy of the Driving license
  • A copy of the Passport
  • A copy of the Aadhar card
  • A no objection certificate (NOC) from the local governing body
  • A NOC from the local health department
  • Application as prescribed under form A or form B
  • List of all the directors and partners along with their government authorised ID proofs and address proofs
  • Contact details of all the partners and directors or the operators
  • Proof showing that you have the possession of business premises
  • Business incorporation certificate
  • No Objection Certificate from the manufacturer for repackers and re-labellers
  • Food safety management system plan
  • Source of milk, water, and raw materials
  • Form IX along with the resolution of the board
  • Certificate from the Ministry of Tourism for hotels
  • Blueprint of the unit 
  • A list of equipment used along with the installation capacity
  • List of food categories 
  • A copy of water analysis report 

Process for obtaining the FSSAI license

The following steps are involved for obtaining an FSSAI registration for the food industry:-

  • Get your business plan.     
  • Determine your yearly turnover.     
  • Determine which type of license is essential for your business.     
  • Fill out the application and complete documentation.     
  • Paying the charge     
  • Finally submit the application

Recent developments around FSSAI 

Under Section 13 of the FSS Act, the FSSAI established 21 subject-specific Scientific Panels, made up of independent scientific experts, to serve as the risk assessment bodies and offer their well-considered scientific judgement.

The FSSAI continued its work in 2022 to create or revise science-based, globally recognised standards for food products. 

In 2022, the FSSAI put into use the electronic product and claim approval application system, or ePAAS. The FSS (Approval for Non-Specified Food and Food Ingredients) Regulations, 2017, are made easier to submit by the ePAAS platform for Food Business Operators (FBOs).

The FSS (Ayurveda Aahaar) Regulations, 2022, and the FSS (Vegan Foods) Regulations, 2022, were also announced.

Under Section 16(3)(e) of the FSS Act, 2006, the “Network for Scientific Cooperation for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (NetSCoFAN) was created to have a network of research and academic institutions working in the area of food and nutrition. 

Guidance notes were issued on the determination of maximum residue levels for pesticides in food commodities, the elimination of trans fatty acids, and the display of information in food service businesses (Menu Labelling).

The FSSAI is developing a Central Sector Scheme (CSS) to “Strengthen the Food Testing System in the Country, Along with the Provision of Mobile Food Testing Labs” (SOFTeL).

Schemes by Government to ensure food security in India 

The Indian government offers a number of food programmes and other aid initiatives for the benefit of India’s indigenous people, and these are as follows:-

  1. Annapoorna Yojana
  2. Antyodya Anna Yojana 
  3. Mid-day Meal Scheme

Conclusion

The largest industry in India is the food sector. Since India has a large potential for agriculture due to its geographic location, the sector’s expansion has been crucial to the country’s economic expansion. The food and beverage sector in India has seen significant increase in mass production in recent years. This industry includes all aspects of the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of food and beverages. These activities have a big role in the food chain, which increases the importance of food regulations in India. The distribution, production, and consumption of food are governed by a multitude of laws, rules, and policies in the area of food laws in India. One of the goals of these regulations is to enact legislation that will effectively manage the food business while also protecting consumers. As a result, it supports the safety of the food production process, which can be viewed as a key element for a successful and secure living. The standards established by international organisations serve as the foundation for Indian food laws. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the main organisation in charge of creating food standards and ensuring its high quality.

Safe wholesome and hygienic food will create ‘Swasth Bharat’  This has to be cornerstone of the efforts of FASSAI ~ Narendra Modi

Read our Article: The Objective Of The Food Safety And Standards Act Of India (FSSAI) 2006

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