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Three months’ shelf life mandatory to clear imported food, says FSSAI
Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s apex food regulator, has issued a notification to include the requirement of a shelf life of at least three months for imported products at the time of port clearance under the Food Safety and Standards (Import) First Amendment Regulations, 2017.

As per the notification, Customs authorities shall not clear any article of food unless it has a valid shelf life of not less than 60 per cent, or three months before expiry, whichever is less, at the time of import. FSSAI stated that this will help in risk prioritisation and in effectively dealing with high-risk products intended for import.

Ashwin Bhadri, chief executive officer, Equinox Labs, and food safety expert, said, “If the product received is of a shelf life that has expired, or is close to its expiry date, it causes two things.”

“Firstly, the business/distributor suffers losses, and the product recall process has to be initiated, damaging the brand equity. And secondly, if the product’s shelf life expires while displayed/purchased within a few days, it incurs losses to the people and poses a danger to the consumers,” he added.

“Several metric ton of food products are imported in the country, which may pose a danger to public health,” Bhadri said.

“In common terms, when a country exports a selected product with a set shelf life, the product should be fresh, with ample shelf life when received in the country importing the same,” he added.

“This time period before the shelf life expires will help the product to stay fresh in the market and/or until a person consumes it,” Bhadri said.

Another provision, which stated that the importer shall submit a certificate of sanitary export from an authorised agency in the exporting country for the categories of food, as may be specified by the food authority from time to time, was also inserted.

Bhadri stated that the other clauses mentioned were the listing of the importer and its details, like the manufacturer of the imported product, country of origin, history of compliance, etc.

“Mentioning all the information enables the product to stay compliant with the Indian food laws and ensures public safety,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention that this is a part of the FSSAI’s plan of risk-based management of food safety-related matters.

These amendments will help the apex food regulator to identify the risk associated with the food products imported, and FSSAI will be able to identify the imported products based on their risk probability, and subsequently, initiate a mitigation plan as and when required. 
 
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