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To understand what is FSSAI one has to understand the reason behind its enactment. The Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006, which is the full form of FSSAI was enacted mainly for three reasons:
In India, prior to when FSSAI started, there were several laws and regulations which dealt with food safety. There were a lot of discussions to consolidate several other food safeties related Acts such as the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act -1954, Fruit Products Order -1955, Meat Food Products Order - 1973, Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order - 1947, Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order -1988, Solvent Extracted Oil, De-Oiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order - 1967, Milk and Milk Products Order -1992, etc.
As one can imagine, it could be a mammoth task for a Food Business Operators (FBO) to keep track of all the above mentioned Acts, its rules and regulations and to run his or her business. To ease this, the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 was brought into the picture.
The second important purpose was to create a single point reference system relating to Food Safety standards and enforcement. As mentioned, previously there were multiple laws related to food safety and this meant that there were multiple levels and multiple departments that were looking after food safety in India.
Because of this reason, there was a lot of confusion as to which authority one should report to and there was a constant disorder between the authorities itself. Therefore, to harmonize all the systems, the FSSAI act was brought into place.
The third and the most important purpose of the FSSAI act was the establishment of the Food Securities and Standards Authority of India, which is the full meaning of FSSAI. The FSSAI act plays a very crucial rule in formulating the standards for food and regulates its manufacture, storage and distribution, and related functions.
As mentioned in the FSSAI Act, here are a few main objectives that are listed below:
Have a single law relating to food
To create and establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
Provide scientifically tested safe standards for food
Ensure that the food that is consumed by the public is safe and complete with nutrients
To create enforcement mechanisms that would regulate the food industry effectively
The Act basically covers all kinds of food that is consumed by human beings. Most food items including unprocessed/semi-processed/processed foods are covered under this act. It also includes genetically engineered foods, all kinds of substances and water that is used in the preparation of food.
Packaged juices, drinking water, infant food, alcohol-based drinks, chewing gums, and all other primary foods are covered by the FSSAI Act.
Here, it is important to mention that, the Act considers live animals or products of agriculture, horticulture or animal husbandry as food only when it has already passed on from the hands of a farmer.
The Food Safety and Standards Act is applicable to all persons who are manufacturing, producing, selling or handling food that is meant for human consumption.
The Food Safety and Standards Act does not discriminate between a small hawker or a huge Food Business Operator and makes it mandatory for everyone handling food to keep it safe and fit for human consumption. The Act does not categorize individual sellers or small business and universally names everyone as Food Business Operator. Therefore, this Act is applicable to every person that is in the food business.
The above statements, however, has an exception. As mentioned earlier, the Act is not applicable to farmers even though they are producers of food. Agricultural produce, animal husbandry, etc. are not covered directly under the scope of this Act and thus excludes farmers. The Act comes into play only when the product leaves the hands of the farmers and reaches the next person.
The first section of the Act deals with important terminology: In section 3, most definitions are included and the words that are defined include, ‘adulterant, contaminant, food business, food business operator, food safety, substandard food, and unsafe food. It is important to note here that this part of the act also includes the definition of Food. And the food is defined extensively over here.
The various definitions of food that are included are primary food, infant food, misbranded food, substandard food, unsafe food, food additives, ingredients, food safety, food safety audit, food safety management system, hazard, etc. Likewise, definitions of pesticide residue and residues of veterinary drugs, and foods for special dietary uses, functional foods, nutraceuticals, health supplements, genetically engineered or modified foods and organic food, etc.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) established under Section 4 also mentions that - The FSSAI is established under the central government with its head office in New Delhi. Other related provisions include information regarding the establishment of Offices in other parts of the country and appointing or re-appointing a chairperson of the authority for the easy day-to-day functioning of the Food Authority.
Organizational Structure: The entire food safety organization is divided into numerous departments which ensures and advice regarding the safety of the food that we consume.
At the top is the Central advisory committee, which includes the FSSAI. The FSSAI is advised by scientific panels, Scientific Committees, and CEOs.
At the state level, we have the State Food Authority which is followed by Commissioner of Food Safety and is helped by Designated Officers and Food Safety Officers. A Food Analysts is also included for the assistance of the Commissioner of Food Safety.
The Commissioner and other officers who are present for his assistance have several functions. Some of their main duties include carrying out a survey of food manufacturing and production units. In case the Commissioner finds that any food is unsafe or unfit for human consumption, he prohibits the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of that food item in a particular State or any part of the state for a period of up to one year.
Enforcement through the FSSAI: Certain agencies or organizations that are recognized by the FSSAI is responsible for carrying out food safety audits and of food businesses. It must also check if the food business operators are complying with food safety management systems which are mandated by the Act.
The Penalties provided under the Act: Under the act, there are different penalties for different kinds of non-compliance by Food Business Operators. The provisions of the Act include laws where offenses like manufacturing, storing or selling misbranded or substandard food is punishable with a fine. If the offenses are more serious, it could lead to imprisonment as well.
If consumption of unsafe/hazardous/toxic food results in any severe injury or death of a consumer, the Act makes it clear that the Food Business Operator has to pay a hefty fine for the same.
Some examples of penalties under the act include –
Penalty for substandard food - Up to 5 lakh rupees
Misleading advertisement or false guarantee – up to 10 lakh rupees
Unsanitary or Unhygienic manufacturing of food – 1 lakh rupees
If FBO are in possession of adulterant not injurious to health – 2 lakh rupees
If FBO possess adulterant injurious to health – 10 lakh rupees
Food found unsafe – imprisonment up to 6 months and a fine of up to 1 lakh rupees
Unsafe food results in grievous injury - 6 years imprisonment and a fine of up to 5 lakh rupees
If unsafe food results in death – not less than 7 years imprisonment and fine up to 10 lakh rupees.
The Act, notably, also provides for a penalty for Food Safety Officer for acting against a Food Business Operator on a false premise.
Responsibilities of a Food Business Operator:
If you are a Food Business Operator, your first and foremost duty before beginning a food business is to obtain a food license to practice in the food business. It is mandated under the Act that any person planning to start a food business must obtain a license from the appropriate or designated authority. The Food Safety and Standards Act does not make it mandatory for petty business owners or manufacturers to obtain a license before starting a business. But the Act clearly mentions that everyone — even if they are a small or a large business — must take care of the safety and standard of the food that is being prepared and sold. Therefore, the food must be safe and wholesome for the purposes of consumption, irrespective of who is involved in its manufacture or all kinds of handling.
The Act makes it mandatory for all Food Business Operators to ensure the safety of food. All the Food Business Operators must comply with the different rules of safety and include the nutritional content as specified by the Act. The Food Business Operators are also required to follow other regulations such as the labeling standards mentioned by the Act.
Liabilities of Food Business Operators:
One of the most important developments under the Act is that the wholesalers/sellers/distributors are made liable if they are selling or distributing expired goods or selling foods that are unsafe for human consumption.
All the manufacturers, distributors, sellers or packers are held liable for any unfair practices that are involved in the food business.
Basic Safety Standards for food:
The Food Safety and Standards Act has a few regulations mentioned which need to be followed by Food Business Operators
The regulations under the act basically allow or prohibit the inclusion of substances in food that is meant for human consumption
The Food Safety and Standards Act expressly prohibits the inclusion of harmful substances such as insecticides in food
The Act also mentions clearly that no article of food shall contain any contaminant, naturally occurring toxic substances or toxins, hormones, heavy metals, insecticide and pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, antibiotic residues, solvent residues, pharmacologically active substances, and microbiological counts in excess of tolerance limit as mentioned in the regulations as well
The act mentions that, if it is a novel, genetically-modified article of food, irradiated food, organic food, foods for special dietary uses, functional foods, nutraceuticals, health supplements, proprietary foods, etc. it cannot be manufactured, distributed, sold or imported into India. Only those that the regulations and provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act allow can be possible
The Act mandates special labeling for different kinds of food and Food Business Operators are to adhere to these requirements strictly
If food is imported, there are other specific requirements that are to be followed
Regulations notified under the Food Safety and Standards Act:
Food Business Operators are required to adhere to the below-mentioned regulations as well.
Food Safety & Standards (Licensing & Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011
Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011
Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins & Residues) Regulations, 2011
Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sale) Regulations, 2011
Food Safety & Standards (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, 2011
Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sampling Analysis) Regulations, 2011
Standards for Milk and Milk Products Established Under the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins, and Residues) Regulations, 2011 In India
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