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FSSAI issues draft guidelines on e-commerce food business operators
Tuesday, 04 October, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Pushkar Oak, Mumbai
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) released draft guidelines for e-commerce food business operators (FBO) recently. The draft guidelines, specifying the business models of e-commerce companies, asked to comply with Schedule 4 of the (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulation, 2011, to obtain licence. It also asked to delist food products that did not comply under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

The draft said, “No FBO by himself, or by any person on his behalf, can manufacture, sell or distribute any article of food which is unsafe, misbranded or sub-standard, or contains extraneous matter, or for which a license is required.”

Kumar Anil, advisor (standards), FSSAI, said, “With the release of this draft, FSSAI aims to ensure food safety at all levels. Ensuring safety with regard to the food served by e-commerce players is also crucial, as there was no direct set of regulations framed in this regard. We have asked the stakeholders from the industry to come up with their suggestions, if any.”

Ashwin Bhadri, chief executive officer, Equinox Labs, considered this forthcoming regulation, which is still being worked upon, a new challenge to the e-commerce players, since they deal with a large number of manufacturers and restaurants who offer their products and services, respectively, online.

He said, “The latest e-commerce regulation from FSSAI has stepped up the initiative of ensuring safe food and services to consumers online. This regulation states that the e-commerce portals will have to ensure that the food manufacturers and restaurants comply with the rules and norms standardised by the Central Licensing Authority.”

The products will require that certain mandatory information, like nutritional labels and shelf life information, be displayed on the product, and be legible and clear.

The draft, under supply chain compliance requirements, said, “All e-commerce FBO are required to sign an agreement with the sellers. It should state that the said sellers are compliant with the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and Rules and Regulations made thereunder.”

Listing and information requirements
The draft stated that the sellers who displayed or offered any pre-packed food for sale to the customers, either on their own e-commerce platform or on the marketplace-based model of e-commerce, should ensure that a legible and clear picture of the principal display panel of such pre-packed food is made available for viewing by the customers.

The food product listing information requirements specified in the draft as as follows:
  • The sellers on the ecommerce platform shall be required to display their license/registration obtained under the Food Safety Standards Act, 2006, and Regulations, 2011
  • Mandatory food information like storage condition, disclaimers, etc. shall be provided without charging consumers supplementary costs. The relevant mandatory food information should also be available before the purchase is concluded
  • The food products offered for sale by any e-commerce FBO shall be liable to sampling at any point of the supply chain.
  • Sellers dealing in fresh produce will provide an indicative image of the same produce to the e-commerce FBO for displaying on their platform to enable the consumers to recognise the product.
Bhadri said that FSSAI has constantly improvised its Acts and rules to monitor and enhance food safety and hygiene, and this development will surely give rise to many questions from vendors and the e-commerce portals themselves.

He concluded sayiong that in such complex situations, external help and solutions are much needed. This will ensure that all the online food sectors comply to the food law as well.

The FSSAI draft guidelines on e-commerce companies are a result of the meeting between FSSAI and e-commerce FBO in March 2016.
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