The Imports Division of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a directive on 13th April 2017 in order to make the Food Import Clearance System (FICS) more punctual to facilitate the smooth clearance of imported food consignments. The decisions taken by the FSSAI is briefly highlighted below:
- A sample testing fee must be paid by the importer on the day of testing. Additionally, the importer will be given an opportunity to make the payment within two working days, failing which a fine of Rs. 1000 will be charged per working day for the delay.
- The importer is to be informed by the concerned authority to be present at the time of visual inspection of the food consignment. If a second communication is sent to the importer to confirm his attendance on the stipulated date and time of inspection, he can respond within the next working day and be present for the inspection. However, if he fails to present himself, the inspection can be carried out in his absence.
The Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006: Food import in India is entirely governed by the FSS Act, 2006. As per this Act, all importers need to obtain a license for import of food items. Imports will not be allowed if there is any infringement of any provisions or regulations of the FSS Act. Importantly, the importers must keep abreast with the latest procedural developments issued by the FSSAI from time-to-time.
The Food Import Clearance System (FICS): The FICS allows importers to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) for imported food items. Applications must be submitted exclusively online through the FICS portal and these applications are processed on the first-come-first-served basis. However, processing is done on the same day in case of refrigerated perishable food items and air cargo.
The system has the following useful features:
- Ensures filing of import clearance to the customs in a seamless fashion with the FICS.
- Allows registration of importers / Customs Handling Agents (CHAs) on FICS.
- Permits importers to respond to queries raised by the competent authorities.
- Permits secure online payment of testing fees.
- Facilitates visual inspection/sampling of imported food items.
- Facilitates laboratory testing.
- Helps in generating NOC / Non-conformance certificate.
FSSAI’s Notification on Food Import Regulations, 2017: The onus lies on the FSSAI to ensure the highest quality, wholesome and nutritious food for Indian customers. Keeping this in view, the FSSAI has notified the Food Import Regulations 2017 on 9th March 2017. These regulations will be known as the Food and Safety Standards (Import) Regulations 2017 after it is published in the official Indian Gazette.
Thus, the issue of the current notification, coupled with the Import Regulations are collectively aimed at ensuring a smooth and streamlined system for the clearance of imported food consignments that is not only efficient but also transparent.