Tag Archives: Packaging and Labelling

Conflict – Minimum Height of Letters and Numerals

A packaged product is required to convey certain consumer relevant information through its label. The lettering used to set out such information has been subject to regulation by the Department of Legal Metrology, and in case of food products, the FSSAI as well. These regulations presently prescribe a minimum size of the letters and numerals based on either the net quantity of the product, or the area of the principal display panel.

The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 (PC Rules), as mentioned in an earlier post, has now been amended in relation to the minimum height of such letters and numerals. The recent amendments to the PC Rules, which come into effect from January 1, 2018, require that the minimum height of the letters and numerals are to be determined solely on the area of the principal display panel. The manner in which the area of the principal display panel is required to be calculated is also set out in the PC Rules.

The above amendment poses a challenge, specifically in relation to food products, where the minimum height of the letters, under the FSSA, in relation to all the declarations are required to be maintained at 1 millimetre, regardless of the size of the package of the product, whereas the minimum height of the letters in relation to the declarations under the PC Rules would change depending on the area of the principal display panel. This would mean that the declarations being set out on a package would be of different sizes thereby compromising on the aesthetics of the same.

In addition to the above, the PC Rules previously had provided an exemption whereby in the event that any other law governed the minimum of height of the letters and numerals of a declaration, the said law would be applicable as against the PC Rules. This exemption has been retained, however, with a qualification, whereby certain declarations have to mandatorily comply with the PC Rules, notwithstanding the fact that the minimum height of the letters and numerals of the same are also governed by another law.

An example of the above would be the ‘net quantity’ declaration which is a mandatory declaration, both under the FSSA and the PC Rules, and the minimum height of the letters and numerals of the same are governed by both the laws. The question that would therefore arise is in relation to which law is required to be complied with, i.e., whether the requirements under the FSSA or under the PC Rules. Whilst the key to this may be looked for in the principles of statutory interpretation, it appears that this conflict has been overlooked while amending the exemption provision set out in the PC Rules.

In conclusion, it appears that the only possible way in which both the FSSA and the PC Rules can be complied with is if the law requiring greater compliance is followed. However, it may also be argued that as there is a specific law governing food products, and that PC Rules recognises the same, and permits certain other declarations, such as the name of the product, to only be governed by the FSSA, the PC Rules must ideally continue to recognise the same in relation to all the declarations and permit conflicting provisions in relation to food products to be governed only by the FSSA.

Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Amendment Rules, 2017

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (Department of Consumer Affairs), has, as on June 23, 2017, issued the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Amendment Rules, 2017. The amendments being made to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 would come into force and effect from January 1, 2018.

The Packaged Commodities Rules, in view of the amendments made, will now take into its fold various new concepts such as the concept of dual retail sale price, the buying and selling of products through e-commerce websites etc.

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.

Relaxation – Use of Old Packaging Material

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued an order dated November 23, 2016 based on several representations received from various stakeholders in relation to the use of old packaging material.

In terms of the applicable requirements under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA), the name, address of manufacturers/ packers, etc., and their FSSA license numbers are required to be set out on the packages of various products. Further, in the event that any of the aforesaid details undergo any change, the said change must be reflected on the packaging material.

The FSSAI has now recognised the fact that a lot of the pre-printed packaging material with the details of the old name, address and license number gets wasted as the same is not permitted to be used in terms of the applicable laws. Keeping this in mind, the FSSAI has now stated that, on the requisite application made to it and on paying the required fees, it would permit food business operators to use the pre-printed packaging material with the old details printed on the same, for a period of 6 months which may be extended by a period up to an additional year.

This is a welcome step taken by the FSSAI as it would, in addition, to helping food business operators also benefit the environment and reduce the amount of waste being generated in view of the change of the name, address or license number of a food business operator.

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.