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July 2024

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The food industry in India is growing at a competitive pace and is one of the largest industries in the country. The Indian economy is bolstered by the significant contribution of the agriculture sector, which thrives due to the country & favorable geographical positioning.
Since the food processing sector in India has seen significant development, it has become increasingly important to establish legal frameworks and mechanisms to ensure various aspects of food production, processing, distribution, and sale, safeguarding public health and promoting consumer interests.
The food laws in India include regulations related to food safetystandards (FSS Act), labeling and packaging requirements, food additives, contaminants, and hygiene practices.
These laws are governed primarily by the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act), and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the central regulatory authority responsible for implementing and enforcing these laws.
The FSS Act establishes standards for manufacturing, storing, distributing, selling, and importing food products to ensure they are safe for consumption.
It also provides for the licensing and registration of food businesses, inspection and sampling procedures, and enforcement measures to address non-compliance.

Evolution of Food Law In India

Over the years, India has witnessed several changes and amendments to food laws to keep pace with evolving food safety standards and practices. Notable developments include the establishment of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2006 under the Food Safety and Standards Act, which consolidated various food-related laws and regulatory bodies into a single authority. This act was introduced in 2006 but came into force in 2011. The establishment of this law nullified the eight laws that were in operation, which are as follows:

1. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (37 of 1954)
2. The Fruit Products Order, 1955
3. The Meat Food Products Order, 1973
4. The Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947
5. The Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order, 1998
6. The Solvent Extracted Oil,De-oiled Meal, and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967
7. The Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992
8. Any other order issued under the Essen- tial Commodities Act, 1955 (10 of 1955)

The Significance of Food Safety And Standards Act, 2006

The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act), holds significant importance in India’s regulatory framework for food safety and standards. Here are some key reasons why the FSS Act is substantial: 

1. Comprehensive Regulation

The FSS Act consolidates various food-related laws and regulations into a single comprehensive legislation.   It   covers the entire food supply chain, including production, processing, distribution, and sale, thereby providing a unified regulatory framework for the food industry.  

2. Protecting Public Health

One of the primary objectives of the FSS Act is to protect public health by ensuring the safety and quality of food consumed by the Indian population. It establishes standards for food safety, hygiene, and quality, helping to prevent foodborne illnesses and diseases caused by contaminated or unsafe food.

3. Consumer Protection

The FSS Act prioritizes consumer protection by empowering consumers with the right to safe and wholesome food. It regulates food labeling, packaging, and advertising to ensure that consumers can access accurate information about the food they purchase and consume.

4. Promoting Food Safety Culture

The FSS Act promotes a culture of food safety and hygiene among food businesses and consumers. It mandates food businesses to adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles to ensure food safety at every stage of production and handling.

5. Facilitating Trade

By aligning with international food safety standards, the FSS Act facilitates trade both domestically and internationally. Compliance with FSS Act regulations enables Indian food products to meet global standards, enhancing export opportunities and promoting India’s reputation as a reliable supplier of safe and quality food products.

6. Streamlining Regulation

The FSS Act establishes the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as the apex regulatory body responsible for implementing and enforcing food safety standards in the country. FSSAI’s role includes setting standards, regulating food businesses, conducting inspections, and promoting public awareness about food safety.

Evolution of Food Law In India

Key Regulations Under The Food Safety and Standards Act

1. Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011

These regulations specify the licensing and registration requirements for food businesses operating in India. They categorize food businesses based on their size, nature, and activities and mandate the issuance of licenses or registrations by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to ensure compliance with food safety standards. 

2. Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011

These regulations establish standards for various food products, ingredients, additives, and contaminants. They prescribe maximum permissible limits for contaminants, specify labeling requirements, and set standards for food additives to ensure the safety, quality, and hygiene of food products.

3. Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011

These regulations govern the packaging and labeling of food products sold in India. They specify requirements for labeling, packaging materials, nutrition information, shelf life, and allergen labeling to provide consumers with accurate and transparent information about the food they purchase and consume.

4. Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins, and Residues) Regulations, 2011

These regulations establish maximum permissible limits for contaminants, toxins, and residues in food products to protect consumers from exposure to harmful substances. They set standards for pesticides, heavy metals, microbial contaminants, and other chemical residues in food to ensure food safety and prevent adverse health effects.

5. Food Safety and Standards (Food Recall Procedure) Regulations, 2017

These regulations outline the procedure for food recalls in case of non-compliance with food safety standards (FSS) or the presence of hazardous substances in food products. They establish requirements for food recall notifications, procedures for conducting recalls, and the responsibilities of food businesses, regulatory authorities, and consumers in managing food recalls effectively. 

6. Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011

These regulations prohibit or restrict the sale, distribution, import, or manufacture of certain food products that pose a risk to public health or fail to comply with food safety standards. They aim to prevent the sale of adulterated, unsafe, or misbranded food products and protect consumers from harm.

FSSAI and Food Law

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the apex regulatory body responsible for ensuring food safety and standards across India. The following are the main functions of FSSAI:

Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011
  1. Gathering data on food product
  2. Identifying emerging risks in the food
  3. Implementing a rapid alert system for the food
  4. Developing regulations to ensure food safety for
  5. Establishing standards and guidelines for food businesses to uphold
  6. Issuing licenses and registrations to food business
  7. Providing the government with policy suggestions on food-related
  8. Promoting safe food handling and
  9. Ensuring the promotion of food.
  10. Regulating and preventing food adulteration. 
  11. Enhancing food market hygiene and eliminating adulteration.
  12. Maintaining food quality control.

“Food Safety and Standards Act Overrides Indian Penal Code”

Case: Ram Nath v. State of Uttar Pradesh (Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 2012)

Petitioner: Ram Nath

Respondent: State of Uttar Pradesh and others

Date: February 21, 2024 

Brief Facts:

In this case, the Supreme Court of India examined the interplay between the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA), and Sections 272 and 273 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The appellant filed a petition under Section 482 of the CrPC, seeking the quashing of the prosecution for the offenses punishable under Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. The State of Uttar Pradesh issued an order granting power to the authorities to initiate prosecutions under Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC

as well as under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.

In 2010, a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged by a food inspector representing the Regional Food Controller, Agra, against the petitioner, alleging the commission

of offenses under Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. The allegation was that, although the appellant did not possess a license to sell mustard oil, he continued to carry on the business of selling it. Another allegation was that the petitioner had adulterated mustard oil, edible oil, and rice bran oil.

The petitioner approached the High Court to quash the FIR on various grounds. The appellant relied on the Allahabad High Court’s decision in the case of M/s. PepsiCo India Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. & another v. State of Uttar Pradesh & others By the impugned order, the High Court dismissed the petition filed by the appellant. The view taken in the case of PepsiCo India was that, from when the FSSA came into force, its provisions would have an overriding effect over food-related laws, including Sections 272 and 273 of the IPC. Furthermore, it was held that the police have no authority or jurisdiction to investigate a case under the FSSA.

Decision:

The Supreme Court in the present case observed that there are very exhaustive substantive and procedural provisions in the FSSA for dealing with offenses concerning unsafe food. In this context, we must consider the effect of Section 89 of the FSSA. Section 89 reads thus: “89. Overriding effect of this Act over all other food-related laws—The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force or any instrument having effect by any law other than this Act.” The title of the section indeed indicates that the intention is to give an overriding effect to the FSSA’s overall ‘food-related laws.’

Thus, the Hon’ble Court relied on the statutory regulations provided by the FSSAI and allowed the two appeals, setting aside the impugned order quashing the offenses set under IPC Sections 272 and 273 and ordering the proceedings to operate as per the FSSAI and its relevant provisions. This judgment is poised to transform our perception of food safety laws, particularly in terms of procedural aspects. It will reshape our understanding of disputes related to food safety and establish a streamlined procedure for addressing disputes.

Key Regulations Under the Food

Conclusion

In conclusion, food laws in India play a vital role in ensuring the safety, quality, and hygiene of food products consumed by the population. These laws have evolved

to address emerging challenges and align with international standards. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, along with the regulations issued under it, provides a comprehensive framework for regulating the food industry, setting standards, and ensuring compliance.

Through the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), India has established robust mechanisms for licensing, inspection, enforcement, and consumer education. These efforts aim to protect public health, promote consumer confidence, facilitate trade, and control adulteration in the food market.

However, challenges such as food adulteration, contamination, and ensuring uniform enforcement across diverse regions remain. Going forward, continued efforts are needed to strengthen food safety regulations, enhance enforcement mechanisms, invest in infrastructure, promote awareness, and collaborate with international partners to address emerging risks and ensure the safety and quality of food in India.

Disclaimer

“This document is intended to provide general information and is not intended to be substituted for any legal orprofessional advice. This document is meant exclusively for informational purposes and not for advertising or solicitation. UJA has made significantefforts to ensure that the information contained in this document is accurate and reliable. However, the information here in is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind. UJA hereby disclaims all responsibility and liability, whether stated or implied, for the accuracy, validity, adequacy, reliability, or completeness of any information provided under this document. In no event shall UJA be held liable for any losses or damages whatsoever incurred as a result of using this document.”

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