Through its advisory dated 17 December 2019 FSSAI has published a paper titled ‘Consultation Paper on Methodology of Licensing’. This paper is intended to explain the proposed change in the method of licensing and related aspects. The FSSAI has also elicited comments from stakeholders which can be sent on [email protected]
2.1 At present the process followed for licensing is as follows:
- An applicant selects the food category system, drilled down to the 4-digit level.
- Then the applicant inputs the food product he proposes to manufacture, in a text box.
- Licensing authority while processing the applicant checks if the declared product belongs to the stated category, and standardised as per Food Safety and Standards Regulation (FSSR).
The licensing Authority after other checks he needs to exercise, approves the application.
Expected output is a licensed product which is standardised. However, the description is subjective. It may be specific to the product/manufacturer or even may be generic.
2.2 The present system poses the following problems:
- The text box allows varied descriptions/nomenclature to be submitted. Same food products/food item can be applied/expressed in various forms by the applicant.
- The text box approach leads to data which is unique, non-amenable to any statistical and data analytics.
- The approval and licensed product are dependent on the ‘smartness’ of the applicant and the analytical approach of the licensing authority.
- Usually launch of a variant which is also a standardised product, requires modification of licence.
- A novice finds it difficult to understand and determine under which category his product can be classified.
- The intent is to allow manufacturer to select and apply for a standardised product. If not standardised, applicant needs to apply under Proprietary Food or Product approval. Within the standardised product- there should be a bandwidth allowing variants as specified under FSSR, without approval.
- However, many a times practice did not resonate with theory.
3.1 It is proposed to change the methodology of applying for licence under the FSSA Act, 2006 Rules and Regulations made thereunder. Now an applicant will have to simply select the food category system up-to 2 levels which are simpler to understand and navigate.
2.0 Fats and oils, and fat emulsions.
2.1 Fats and oils essentially free from water.
2.2 Fat emulsions mainly of type water-in-oil.
Once the number 2 level of food category is selected, a menu of standardised products listing shall be displayed; from which the applicant can select the standardised products for which he desires a license.
Applicant can select milk fat, butter oil, anhydrous milk and ghee etc. from the dropdown list that will automatically appear
The new standardised product lists are base don FSSR wherein the standards for food products are detailed. In general, the description used in FSSR at 3 level has been followed. The description used denote all food products items expressed under the said rule.
5.1.3 Chocolate: In this all standardised products detailed under 5.1.3 of FSSR are covered. whether Milk Chocolate, Milk Covering Chocolate, Plain Chocolate, Plain Covering Chocolate, White Chocolate, Blended chocolate.
2.91. Spice like Caraway (Siahjira): all its types standardised like (Siahjira), Caraway Black (Siahjira), Caraway (Siahjira) are considered to be covered under description.
On many occasions, the food products mentioned under the description in details have been used. This is primarily done as the food category of products were different necessitating separate mention.
Example 1.6 Cheese and analogues
Here any can be selected from the dropdown list like chhana and paneer, Un-ripened cheese including fresh cheese, cottage cheese and creamed cottage cheese
3.2 in some case, the same is done owing to administrative reasons keeping the need of licensing authority and sensitivity of the food products or its nature and source in perspective. Like for milk and dairy based drinks (1.1) specific category of milk is mentioned like Buffalo milk, Cow milk, Goat and sheep milk, etc.
In every exceptional case- description has been slightly modified to express better.
3.3 mapping of food category system with standardised food products as per FSSR has been attempted. The licence shall display the name of the food product along with corresponding food category at best level.
- Implication of the new system of licensing based on standardised product list approach:
4.1 The new system is based on trust and self-regulation approach. An FBO opts and selects a standardised product and his license is approved for the same. The onus is on the FBO to manufacture only products which are standardised with the description under FSSR.
4.2 The linguistic meaning of the standardised product list is NOT be relied upon. The expression derives meaning from the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011 and amendments thereof and Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages Regulation) 2018, and should be construed and understood accordingly. The licence approval means that FBO can manufacture only those standardised products which are covered by the description as in the FSSR.
If license is granted to Chocolate: all the variants of chocolate standardised under i.e. Milk Chocolate, Milk Covering Chocolate, Plain Chocolate, Plain Covering Chocolate, White Chocolate, Blended chocolate are deemed to be allowed to manufactured.
4.1 10.1 Fresh eggs: means all types of eggs whether Chicken, Turkey, Guinea Fowl, Quail, Duck, Goose.
4.3 The department works with the assumption that only standardised products are manufactured. It shall be the onus of the FBO to prove that the product manufactured by him is standardised and falls within the licenced product domain. Mere licensing based on the application shall not be defence that the product is licensed and hence allowed by the licensing authority.
4.4 In-case any product(s) is found to be manufactured by FBO(s) which doesn’t conform to the standards or not covered by the standardised product (as specified under FSSR) so licensed it shall be deemed that the FBO is manufacturing without FSSAI-license and shall be liable to the penal provisions as specified under Section 63 of FSS Act, 2006 Rules and Regulations made thereunder.
4.5 In case of doubt please approach the licensing authority for clarity, with full declaration of facts.
- Changes in regulations/law
5.1 Change in methodology of licensing requires no legislative change. It requires only a change in the online licensing system to display the mapped standardised product list. A new food category system 99.99 has been created only for the purpose of licensing and is not a statutory category. It houses standardised products for which the food category system has not been mapped. No assumption regarding additives or contaminants may be deduced merely due to the new category.
6.Problems/Weakness: Any change involves issues of transition. Small inconvenience for evolution of a systematic licensing system may be expected. There exists chance of abuse by vested elements or genuine mistake by misinterpretation.
7.1 The greatest advantage of the approach is harmonisation of the practices being followed across India in terms of licensing- implementing One Nation One Food Law in spirit and letter.
7.2 No more requirement of endorsement of individual products. No more approvals and modifications to add new variants/products, within the licensed standardised products. The flexibility is being bestowed upon FBOs so that food industry doesn’t suffer or is hampered by a licensing regime.
7.3 The transition is expected to improve the ease of doing business for food business operators in India. While the licensing is expected to be quicker, prone to limited queries and based on trust.
7.4 The approach is expected to be simpler. Any FBO with limited knowledge is also expected to be able to apply for license. The time and effort taken at both ends-applicant and department are expected to be reduced.
7.5 For the licensing authorities after a transition time period the move will lead to generation of an effective database which is amenable to statistical and data analytics. There is also expected a slight reduction in number of licence application and modification applications.
7.6 The transition may pose some unique challenges such as previously approved licences in certain category which may note feature in the new listing. Such challenge is perceived as an advantage rather problem as it shall uncover such gaps which the Food Authority then can work to overcome. One such case is a small list of standardised products which are not yet mapped to the food category system. These have been listed presently against a new subcategory 99.99 which is being used only for licensing purpose.
8.1 Proprietary, nutraceuticals and product approval food products are excluded from the process change. They will follow the present procedure for licensing wherein the product will need to be named in a text box and individually approved by the licensing authority. The approach is not amenable to these categories and hence not extended to these.
- Transition from previous licences to new standardised product licences:
9.1 With the launch of FoSCos all new licences will be issued based on standardised product list. Amendments/modifications to add new products and renewals will be based on the new standardised product list. In nutshell, FBOs will be required to migrate and get his licence amended/modified according to new standardised product list once previous licence needs renewal
- Request for feedback from stakeholders
10.1 Stakeholder are requested to give feedback, if any, on the proposal-especially on the following aspects:
- Concordance of food category system and the standardised product
- Any standardised product that needs to be disaggregated and captured in details
- Any standard products that could be clubbed and licenced as a whole (the detailed description and product list is perceived to be too detailed and unnecessary)
- Transition provisions
10.2 Best way for existing licence holders is to see if they can identify their products in the listing with ease. FBO are encouraged to go through the mapping annexed and examine the items relevant to them.
10.3 Suggestions may please be sent to [email protected] by 06.01.2020/ Please do not send any physical correspondence to save environment.