The implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 has run into rough weather. The Act consolidates eight laws governing the food sector and establishes the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) as the regulator. It requires all food business operators (including small businesses and street vendors) to obtain a licence or registration. The Regulations under FSSA related to procedure for obtaining a licence or registration was notified on August 1, 2011. According to the Regulations, all food business operators had to get a licence or registration within one year of the notification. Due to opposition from several food business operators (see here and here), the FSSA has now extended the deadline for getting a licence or registration by another six months (till February 2013). However, some of the key concerns regarding the law have not yet been addressed.
Key issues related to the Bill raised by PRS (for more details see Legislative Brief)
- The organised as well as the unorganised food sectors are required to follow the same food law. The unorganised sector, such as street vendors, might have difficulty in adhering to the law, for example, with regard to specifications on ingredients, traceability and recall procedures.
- The Bill does not require any specific standards for potable water (which is usually provided by local authorities). It is the responsibility of the person preparing or manufacturing food to ensure that he uses water of requisite quality even when tap water does not meet the required safety standards.
- The Bill excludes plants prior to harvesting and animal feed from its purview. Thus, it does not control the entry of pesticides and antibiotics into the food at its source.
- The power to suspend the license of any food operator is given to a local level officer. This offers scope for harassment and corruption.
Other issues referred to in the media
- The Act requires a food business operator to get different licenses if articles of food are manufactured or sold at different premises. Newspapers reported that this provision was challenged in the Madras High Court but a stay order on the Act and its Rules was refused.
- According to media reports, two hotel associations in Karnataka had challenged certain sections of the Act and Rules in the Karnataka High Court related to requirement of technical person for supervision of production process and requirement of a laboratory on the premises of food operators. The court stayed these provisions for three months (till October 2012).
- News papers reported that the Supreme Court is examining the question whether liquor is a food.
. (a) The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. (b) The Fruit Products Order, 1955. (c) The Meat Food Products Order, 1973. (d) The Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947. (e) The Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order, 1998. (f) The Solvent Extracted Oil, De oiled Meal, and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967. (g) The Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992. (h) Any other order issued under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, relating to food.