India’s food import is governed under Section 25 (1) of the FSS Act, 2006. According to the regulation for all imports of foods a licensing is required. No person can be permitted to import into India any unsafe, misbranded, substandard or foods with extraneous matter. No food imports can be permitted if they are found to infringe in any way, any of the provisions, rules and regulations of the FSS Act, 2006. Since FSSAI regulates food imports, entrepreneurs who import food products into India need to aware of the FSSAI procedures. Applications for are now accepted only through the online Food Import Clearance System and are processed on first come first served basis. Only refrigerated consignments and air cargo will be processed on the same day.
Procedure for obtaining Import License
After obtaining a license from the FSSAI the importer’s next step is to authorise a
Customs Handling Agent (CHA) through an authority letter that is also addressed to the FSSAI/ Authorised officer. Once the consignment arrives the CHA will have to file an application for clearance of consignment with the Department of Customs based on the Bill of Entry. A Government Customs Agent would verify the consignment and clear the same after clearance of customs formalities and payment of customs duty.
The importer and the CHA have to apply online for the clearance of consignments and obtain the NOC. First they have to register online at the FSSAI Food Import Clearance System. There is a separate for an importer and CHA which they have to fill up according to the information required by FSSAI. Importers need to provide their IECODE and also have to fill out the other information on the registration form. It is easy to access the online food clearance system at http://ics.fssai.gov.in. Once an application is made in the Food Import Clearance System with documents, an FSSAI Officer will verify the documents, request more information if required. Once the application is accepted, the Importer/CHA will be requested to deposit fees for FSSAI clearance based on the number of samples. If they wish to view their application status then they can view that on the homepage itself. Since it is an internet based system it can be accessed any time by the importers and CHA by logging in with their individual user ID and passwords.
Once you online FICS application has been accepted then you can proceed for NOC
For applying for NOC these are the important document requirements
- Importer Exporter Code (IEC) issued by the DGFT
- FSSAI Food Business License
- Bill of Entry
- Examination Order generated by the EDI system of Customs
- End-use declaration, declaration that food is not GM food
- Country of Origin Certificate
- Besides this depending on individual import items other documents could be required
The procedure for obtaining NOC is that first you have to pay the fees for laboratory testing on a per sample basis. Since April 2014 the FSSAI is accepting payments only though bank credit/ debit cards/ net banking for all import clearance through FICS only. You have to provide any clarification sought by the Authorised Officer (AO). It is important to facilitate and accompany the inspection team at the time of inspection and drawing of samples once the dates are given. The AO will check the consignment visually for
- Physical condition of the consignment an for visible insect or fungal infestation
- Shelf life of the product which should be more than the 60% of its original shelf life at the time of import clearance
- Compliance of the FSS (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, 2011, and the product specific labelling requirements;
Labelling requirements on food imports
- The Labelling Language should be as per FSSAI (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, 2011, and the product specific labelling requirements;
- The name, trade name or description of food contained in the package.
- The name of the ingredients used in the product in descending order of their composition by weight or volume as the case may be.
- Declaration of “Vegetarian” or “Non-Vegetarian” by symbol of “Vegetarian” or “Non-Vegetarian”.
- The name and complete address of the manufacturer and manufacturing unit.
- In case where article of food is imported into India, The name and complete address of the importer in India.
- The net weight or number or measure of volume of contents.
- Batch number or Lot number or Code number.
- The month and year in which the commodity is manufactured or packed.
- Declaration of “Best Before” date on the package. It can also be expressed in terms of number of months before the best before date.
- The nutritional information or nutritional facts per 100gm or 100ml of per serving of the product shall be given in the label.
- Vegetable fats are not permitted in the chocolate under FSS Regulations 2011
After the authorised food testing laboratory issues a report confirming that the food consignment is in compliance with the FSSAI regulations, the FSSAI Officer would issue a No Objection Certificate (NOC) or Non Conformance Certificate (NCC). The food product would then be cleared for import into India and released from the customs warehouse. NCC means import is rejected and the importer can re-apply for testing of stored samples. If not reapplying then importer has to destroy the food consignment or re-import as the case might be.
The online process and Document Briefcase
On the online FICS there is a section called the ‘Document Briefcase’ where the Importer/CHA can keep their documents permanently and just tag them when they need an NOC. These are the documents that are not consignment specific so they can be kept online permanently by the Importer/ CHA
- Narcotics Certificate
- Product Approval Certificate
- IE Code License
- FSSAI License
- Ministry of Agriculture Permit
- Ministry of Animal Husbandry permit
Online License Validity of CHA
The CHA can also check out the validity of the CHA license online and can also make use of the options to update and renew the license online. All these can be managed from the CHA’s profile page. A message will be conveyed if there are less than 30 days left for the license to expire. Similarly CHA can request for updating other details like CHA Company Name, Registered Address and Authorized Person details and providing supporting documents for the same if any required.
The following types of food product import into India do not require FSSAI Approval:
- Export rejected or re-imported food meant for re-export
- Food articles or ingredients or additives which are being imported for manufacturing of 100% exports products
- Food imported by Diplomatic Missions
- Import of Food for Quality Assurance, Research and Development – This imported food cannot be released into the domestic market or used for test marketing or market research purposes
- Food imported for the purposes of exhibitions and tasting, subject to certain conditions.
- Food received during any disaster/emergency situations
- Import of food for sports events, subject to certain conditions