Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has issued a clarification on the media reports going viral with respect to the newly launched licensing platform.
The national food safety authority claims that the fact of the matter is that there has been no change in the provisions regarding licensing and registration. Licensing and registration have been an online service since 2011. Whether the application has to be addressed by the State authorities or FSSAI, the experience for the food business is the same. An improved IT platform with more facilities and ease of operation is being implemented now.
The first point raised is that all food business operators will now have to approach FSSAI for a licence. This is not true. Only very limited licenses are to be obtained from FSSAI, and it delegates the rest to state government officials.
Another point where the manufactures producing less than 2000 kg per year could earlier get a licence from the district authorities will now have to approach FSSAI. This is not correct, factually. There has been no change in the turnover or quantity of production requirements for FSSAI licensing.
Businesses would have to register with district authorities for a turnover up to Rs.12 lakhs per annum. From Rs. 12 lakhs to Rs. 20 crores per annum, state government authorities would issue licences. FSSAI comes into the picture only for a turnover of more than Rs. 20 crores or over 2 MT per day, these businesses would have to take a license from FSSAI. As on date, less than 1% of the total food businesses in the country are licensed by FSSAI.
The traditional Indian sweets and namkeen were always treated as proprietary items because no standards exist for them. The respective associations of manufacturers have been approached to help in framing standards, and these are still work-in-progress. It can be reasonably expected that within the next six months. Vertical standards for mithai and namkeen would be available, in which case they would be no requirement of obtaining a license from the central authority for them.
As of now, Proprietary foods would have to get their license from FSSAI. This has been the rule position ever since 2011 and there is no recent change in this position.
Looking at the difficulties being faced by mithai and namkeen manufacturers in migrating to the new IT platform, a one-year relaxation has been provided to them by FSSAI. According to this relaxation, renewal by State authorities has been permitted up to June 2021 and they would not need to approach FSSAI for the license. It is expected that vertical standards for these products would come in force before this relaxation period ends, and then they would only have to obtain licenses based on turnover, unlike the current situation where they need to have the license issued by the central authority.
On the condition of employing a technical in-charge has been in force ever since 2011 for manufacturers of food commodities and is also not a fresh condition. This condition applies only to licensed food businesses and not those who are registered. It is clarified that food service establishments such as a halwai making kachoris would not be treated as a manufacturer, and it would not attract this clause in their case. It will only apply to factory type establishments where kachoris are being manufactured and packaged and sold as a packaged product.
Another reform that has been proposed by FSSAI is to have perpetual licenses instead of the present practice of limited time period licenses. Food business operators would only have to submit their annual returns online and pay nominal annual charges in order to retain the active status of the license.
The fees of Rs. 100/- applies to the registration of businesses with turnover up to Rs. 12 lakhs. In case of a licence, the fees are higher and vary from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 7,500. It may be clarified here that Rs. 7,500 is the highest license fees which is charged from businesses with very high turnover.
The apprehension that it will render packaging material useless because of a change in license number is not factually correct. As per rules, FSSAI provides a time of at least six months to utilise the existing packaging material, and it can extend this time period on a case to case basis.
Good manufacturing practices have been a part of Regulations ever since 2004. Every small or big manufacturer of food items has to get the water quality certified annually, and this is a necessary condition in order to ensure food safety for customers. Any dilution of this may lead to food-borne illnesses which would be detrimental to the health of the public. Similarly, the requirement of glazed tiles; caps, aprons and gloves for workers and other hygienic requirements apply to the kitchen area of any food business. These conditions are also essential to maintain proper hygiene and to ensure good quality of food preparations. Any dilution of these also would not be desirable in the public interest.