Minimum Area of the Principal Display Panel – FSSA or Legal Metrology

Legal  MetrologyThe term ‘principal display panel’, very simply put, is that panel of a package on which all the label declarations, as required, must be set out, for the information and use of the consumer.

The FSSAI, in terms of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011, requires the principal display panel of all food products to be of a minimum size. The details of the size and other requirements have been set out in the Packaging and Labelling Regulations. However, the Department of Legal Metrology, which also requires certain information to be set out on the principal display panel of packages, does not require the said principal display panel to be of a minimum size. As a result, the food industry has been complying with the requirements in relation to the minimum area of the principal display panel, as per the provisions of the Packaging and Labelling Regulations.

A recent amendment to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 has introduced a provision, in terms of Rule 7(5), which deals with the manner in which the area of the principal display panel is to be calculated, for the purposes of determining the height of the lettering of the label declarations. This has caused a considerable amount of confusion in the food industry, with some taking an interpretation that the Department of Legal Metrology has prescribed a ‘minimum area’ to be maintained, in relation to the principal display panel.

We however tend to disagree with the interpretation that a ‘minimum area’ for the principal display panel is required to be maintained, in terms of the Packaged Commodities Rules. First, it must be noted that this new sub-rule has been set out in Rule 7, which primarily relates to the minimum height of the letters and numerals required to be set out in various declarations. Second, the new sub-rule, no where states that the minimum area of the principal display panel must be as per the method set out therein. Rule 7(5) merely states that area of the principal display panel must be calculated and decided in the manner set out therein.

A careful reading of Rule 7 indicates that the Department of Legal Metrology has set out a formula, based on which the height of numerals is required to be calculated for various declarations. Rule 7(3) in Table II sets out the manner in which the height of numerals is required to be calculated in the event that the net quantity of a particular product is set out in length, area or number. In such cases, the minimum height of the numerals, in the various declarations, is dependent on the area of the principal display panel. This concept of ‘area of the principal display panel’ was earlier not set out anywhere in the Packaged Commodities Rules and therefore led to confusion in compliance. The Department of Legal Metrology, therefore, to clarify the said concept and to set out the manner in which the same is required to be calculated and determined, introduced sub-rule (5) to Rule 7, which merely states the manner in which the area of the principal display panel must be calculated and determined.

To conclude, in our view, the Department of Legal Metrology has not prescribed a minimum area of the principal display panel but has instead clarified the manner in which the height of numerals is required to be set out, in relation to those products where the net quantity is set out in area, length or number. The minimum area of the principal display panel would continue to be governed by the Packaging and Labelling Regulations.

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