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.