Through a notification issued on 9 August 2016, the FSSAI has issued some new guidelines regarding Food Import Clearance Process. The FSSAI has also asked its Authorized Officers (AO) to follow these guidelines to ensure that food importers are in compliance after six months from the above mentioned date. These partially modified guidelines deal with the requirement of labelling for primary foods like food grains, pulses, fruits, dry fruits, whole spices, etc. which are imported in packages. The modified guidelines are in addition to the already existing guidelines.
The FSSAI has clarified that it is not mandatory to have the name and address of the importer on the labels. Whether the name and address of the importer is displayed or not is not compulsory. However, the documents that accompany the consignment must have the name and address of the importer to enable FSSAI’s Authorised Officers to verify the name and address of the food importer.
In the previous guidelines for the import of primary foods the FSSAI had made it mandatory to have only the following on the package labels.
- Name of the food
- Name and complete address of the packer
- Date of packing
Now the FSSAI has made additions to the label requirements. Besides these mandatory labelling requirements the FSSAI’s latest guidelines now make it mandatory to also have the following displayed on the labels of packaged imported primary foods
- Net weight
- Lot No. /Code No. / Batch No.
- Best before or use by or expiry date
All food importers that import primary foods will need to ensure that all these labelling requirements are displayed on imported packages of primary foods within six months from 9 August 2016. After six months the Authorised Officers will be checking for these labelling requirements and will not allow the consignment to leave ports unless these labelling modifications have been complied with.
Under section 47(5) FSS Act 2006, FSSAI has set up a mandatory food import clearance process which has been operational since September 2010. Once an Authorised Officer comes for inspection he will
- Visually inspect food packages
- Verify documents and labels
- Randomly pick samples from the consignment at the CFS or from the vessels
- The AO will also check to see if the food has been packaged and labelled as per the regulations applicable for import of primary foods.
- Since the best before, use by and expiry date will now be mentioned on labels so the AO will also make sure that the consignment has at least 60% shelf life left at the time of its clearance from the customs.
- If on visual inspection there is non-compliance on labelling and packaging regulations then no samples for testing shall be drawn from the consignment.
Earlier also the FSSAI had made changes to the labelling requirements of other packaged foods. FBOs that imported chocolates, liquor and canola oil had to face a lot of clearance issues if the imported packages were not labelled as per the FSSAI labelling requirements. Authorised officers had not cleared stocks from the ports for lack of compliance. Besides this, FSSAI had also sent back shipments of imports if the logo/license, batch number, importer’s name, packaging and expiry date were not found to be in keeping with FSSAI labelling regulations.