Pending Cases – Repealed Enactments

The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, on its coming into force, repealed various existing enactments and orders, including the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, the Fruit Products Order, 1955, the Meat Food Products Order, 1973 and the enactments/ orders set out in the Second Schedule to the FSS Act.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has taken note of the fact that a large number of cases under these enactments/ orders are pending before various courts and tribunals, across the country. In a circular issued to all the Commissioners of Food Safety, the FSSAI had stated that in many of these cases the offences committed are not very serious and further the penalties/ punishments that have been prescribed are also not substantial and that the pendency of these cases, in addition to creating a burden on the judicial system, also requires the time and the resources of the Government in pursuing the matters. The FSSAI is keen on ensuring that these resources are used towards the implementation of the FSS Act such that consumers receive safe and wholesome food.

The FSSAI has therefore asked all Commissioners of Food Safety to examine the pending cases under the repealed enactments/ orders and ascertain as to whether the said cases may be withdrawn. The findings of the Commissioners of Food Safety are however yet to be made public.

This move of the FSSAI comes across as a practical solution to reducing the number of outstanding cases thereby enabling the FSSAI to channelise its energies and resources in the right direction. The circular, that was issued earlier this year, is however not to be confused as a mass amnesty scheme and it should be clearly understood that there would no automatic withdrawal of pending cases.

 

Caffeinated Beverages – Standardised Food Products

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has issued a notification dated December 2, 2016, and published in the Official Gazette on December 6, 2016, in relation to amending the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, to include standards for caffeinated beverages.

The standards are being set out under the category of ‘Beverages Non-Alcoholic – Carbonated’ in the Standards Regulations. The inclusion of these standards, for caffeinated beverages, would mean that products which fall within this category may now be manufactured as ‘standardised food products’ in terms of the FSS Act.

The notification states that while the standards would come into effect from December 6, 2016, food business operators are required to be in compliance with the provisions of the regulations by July 1, 2017.

Use of Newspaper as Packaging Material

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has, today, issued an advisory cautioning the use of newspapers to wrap, pack and serve food products. The FSSAI recognises that it is common practice to use newspapers as packaging material, however, it has stated that the same is resulting in consumers being slowly poisoned in view of the ink, colours and pigments used in the newspapers.

The FSSAI has recognised the fact that newspapers could be contaminated with metallic contaminants, mineral oils and other harmful chemicals, which could cause serious medical problems, especially with older people and children.

The FSSAI has stated that newspapers must not be used to wrap, cover or serve food products and must also not be used as absorbent paper for absorbing the excess oil in case of fried foods. The FSSAI has requested all Commissioners of Food Safety in the states and union territories to initiate a campaign to generate awareness amongst the people and to discourage the use of newspapers in relation to food products.

Proprietary Food – The Final Regulations

In a previous post, we had discussed a direction issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, in August this year, in relation to the ‘finalised standards’ for proprietary food products. The post, among other things, discussed the gaps in the direction, specifically in relation to whether the same was enforceable and was issued by the FSSAI in accordance with the procedure and requirements of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

The FSSAI has now, as on October 13, 2016, issued a final notification which amends the provisions set out in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, which specifically sets out the meaning and standards for proprietary food products. These provisions will now be the final provisions that would apply to proprietary food products and would supersede earlier notifications, orders and directions issued by the FSSAI.

The provisions of this notification are the same as compared to the earlier direction issued by the FSSAI, with the exception of the provisions in relation to health claims. While the earlier direction prohibited all types of health claims to be made in relation to the products, whether on the label or otherwise, this notification now permits health claims to be made, whether on the product label or otherwise, as long as the same is substantiated with adequate and scientific evidence.

The above change made by the FSSAI to the regulations as were set out in the direction, comes as a welcome relief to the food industry. As we had stated earlier, it did not seem logical as to why the FSSAI was preventing such food products from making health claims while the main Act, the FSS Act, itself permits such health claims, as long as the same are capable of being substantiated with adequate and scientific evidence. It appears that the FSSAI has now kept the final regulations in tune and in line with the main Act, the FSS Act.

In addition to the above, while this notification states that the final regulations and provisions would come into force on the date of the publication in the Official Gazette, i.e. October 13, 2016, it appears that the FSSAI has provided time to food business operators to comply with the same until July 1, 2017. This would, in our view, imply that the enforcement activities in relation to proprietary food products complying with these regulations would be undertaken only subsequent to July 1, 2017.