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By Ms. Divya Sharma, Head - Food Law Practice

FSSAI though a direction issued to all Authorised Officers has re-operationalised the FSS (Food Import) Regulations, 2017. These Regulations have been made effective from 14.01.2017. It must be observed here that these are not the final notifications, the FSSAI is yet to consider all suggestions and objections raised by stakeholders and will then issue final notifications relating to import. Till then, seeing the difficulty in freely allowing unrestricted imports or prohibiting all import, FSSAI has decided to re-operationalise these Import Regulations.

Some highlights of these regulations are as under;

  • no import of food can be made without obtaining a license from the Central Licensing Authority of FSSAI. In addition the Food Importer will also need to register himself with the DGF and possess a valid Import-Export Code;
  • every food article imported shall be at least 60% of its shelf life remaining at the time of its clearance from the customs;

It should be borne in mind, that in spite of possessing a valid Import-Export code, the license issued by the Central Licensing Authority of FSSAI can be suspended and or cancelled, in case there has been contravention of the FSS Regulations; or the Food Importer attempts to import unsafe or prohibited food articles or import from prohibited sources.

The procedure when a food article arrives at the custom port:

  • The importer/ CHA shall file an Integrated Declaration Form in the Customs Single Window Integration for Facilitation Trade (SWIFT) with all the requisite prescribed information;
  • After satisfactory scrutiny of the Integrated Declaration Form, the Food Authority shall conduct the visual inspection of the articles;
  • The applicant shall be given at max two opportunities for being present for the visual inspection;
  • In visual inspection, the Food Authority shall ensure that compliance has been made with the Packaging and Labelling Regulations of FSSAI. Rectification of the label and package can be allowed if the defect relates to name and address of the importer, the FSSAI Logo and License Number and or Veg/ Non-Veg Logo. In such cases, a non-detachable warrant can be affixed on the package.

Clearance from the Food Authority can be exempted in the following cases:

  • Food is being imported for personal consumption upto a specified amount;
  • Food is imported for Diplomatic Mission- in this case clearance shall be dealt in accordance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Regulations;
  • Food is being imported for the purposes of Research and Development- on the condition that the food shall not be released into the domestic market;
  • Import of Food for the purposes of Exhibition and Tasting;
  • Import of Food for international sports events- where the consumption is to be done by the sports persons of such exporting country.

In all the above cases, the Integrated Declaration Form must be made on the SWIFT portal.

Risk based assessment and analysis of food articles have also been provided in the regulations.

These regulations are necessary to fill in the void in respect of import of food articles in our country. An attempt has been made to ensure that imported food products are safe for human consumption and a necessary regulatory environment for the import market is provided, till final notifications are issued.

Detailed guidelines can be accessed from the website.