Tag Archives: FSSL

Licenses for Proprietary Food

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has now set out the meaning and standards for proprietary food products very clearly in the regulations. The FSSAI has, however, not set out the resultant implications in relation to the issue of licenses required for the manufacture of such products.

Proprietary food products, as a concept, have been in existence even prior to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA) being brought into force and effect.

An obvious implication of the new meaning and standards for proprietary food products, that were set out by the FSSAI, was the requirement for food business operators to re-evaluate each of their products and ascertain as to whether they continue to remain proprietary. The FSSAI, however, did not require, by way of any law or order, for these food business operators to reapply or make any changes in relation to the license for the manufacture of the products, if they continued to be proprietary food products.

The FSSAI, has now, recently updated the online licensing system and has set out a separate category for proprietary food products, novel foods, etc. This is an excellent move by the FSSAI as now there is a clear and express route that can be used for applying for a license in relation to the different kinds of food products. The FSSAI, however, did not make any provision for those food products that were granted licenses prior to the online licensing system being updated, nor did the FSSAI provide any clarity for those food business operators who had licenses issued for products, prior to the new meaning and standards being introduced, and which products continued to be proprietary under the new law.

The FSSAI, however, now requires that these issued license holders approach the FSSAI and apply for a modification of their licenses for the reason that the proprietary food products being manufactured are not under the category as required by the updated licensing system and the FSSAI as on today. Whilst there is no order or communication in this regard, food business operators find this being required of them on approaching the FSSAI for modification of their license to include additional products or additional food business activities or while applying for a renewal of their licenses.

The above seems rather unfair to food business operators who are required to make an application for the modification of their licenses and also pay an additional fee in view of a delay on the part of the FSSAI in updating the online licensing system or in providing clarity on the matter. While the intention of the FSSAI cannot be questioned, it should take this particular matter into consideration and and consider it fair to provide a solution to these food business operators or a more efficient manner in which their licenses could be updated.

The Form and Format of the FSSAI License Number

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) amended the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 (Labelling Regulations) in June, 2013, to specifically include provisions in relation to setting out the FSSA license number on packages of food. The provision, in addition to requiring the license numbers to be set out, sets out a specific form and format for the same.

The FSSAI , to provide more clarity on the manner in which the license numbers  must be set out on labels, issued a clarification and advisory in October, 2013. This clarification and advisory was later replaced by another clarification and advisory issued in June, 2014. It must be noted here that the clarification issued by the FSSAI requires certain additional compliances/ declarations to be set out on labels, which are not, today, present in the Labelling Regulations.

To sum it up, the manner in which the FSSA license numbers are presently required to be set out is governed by the Labelling Regulations and the clarification of June, 2014. On a combined reading of the provisions in the Labelling Regulations and the clarification, one particular issue that one would notice is that the form and format of setting out the primary FSSA license number is set out in a different manner in the clarification, as compared to the Labelling Regulations.

The question that would naturally follow from the above would be as to which format is required to be adopted by food business operators, which would ensure that they have complied with the Labelling Regulations. While it could be stated that any format could be complied with, as both the formats have been issued by the FSSAI, we hold the view, that the correct format which must be followed is the one set out in the Labelling Regulations and not in the clarification. This is for the reason that, based on the principles of law, the clarification is supposed to merely ‘clarify’ the provision in relation to which it is issued and should not, ideally, set out any new provisions of the law.

The above would then, however, lead to a bigger question as to whether all the other provisions as set out in the clarification and do not find any mention in the Labelling Regulations must be complied with by food business operators. These provisions would include the manner of setting out the FSSA license numbers when multiple units are involved with a product, the minimum height of the letters and numerals, etc.

In view of the above, we strongly believe that the FSSAI, keeping in mind its history with issuing regulations and making law through guidelines and orders, should adopt the proper procedure and take appropriate steps to include the various new provisions, as contained in the clarification, in the Labelling Regulations. This would ensure that the provisions intended by it to be complied with, are indeed adequately complied with.