To ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption the Government of India regulate the import of food products in India through various department and agencies. One of the prime bodies which lays down the standards, regulate and control the import of food products in India is Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. FSSAI has developed a Standard Operating Procedures for clearance of imported food products. If the import of the food products is not as per the FSSAI regulations and prescribed procedures were not followed during the import food products the consignment will be rejected and will not be allowed to be traded in India. Thus A business before importing food products in India must be aware of the FSSAI regulations and procedures relating to the import of food product. In this article we will have a broad view of the procedure to be keep in mind while importing food products in India.
Licences and registration required prior to import
- Business form either company or LLP – It is Suggestable though not mandatory as these are credible form of business having limited liability.
- Vat Registration with concerned authority for sale of products in India.
- Importer Exporter Code (IE Code) issued by Director General of Foreign Trade.
- Product approval in case of import of non-standardised products
Delegation of Authority
The importer may comply with the formalities involved in custom clearance and food import clearance System (FICS ) of FSSAI on their own or may submits an authority in favour of a Custom Handling Agent (CHA) to the relevant authorities if he choose to handle his import through a CHA.
Stages in clearance of a consignment after arrival
Once the consignment is arrived in India the various stages for clearance of consignment before going to the domestic market is as below:
- Application for Custom Clearance with department of Customs.
- Application for No objection certificate or Provisional NOC to Food Import clearance system (FICS) of FSSAI.
- Scrutiny of documents by Authorised officer of FSSAI.
- Visual inspection of the consignment and sampling thereof by the Authorised officer of FSSAI.
- Laboratory analysis of samples collected.
- Issuance of No objection certificate or Provisional NOC by Food Import clearance system (FICS) of FSSAI.
- Custom clearance of the consignment.
- Application for Custom Clearance with department of Customs– once the consignment arrives in India the importer or CHA shall file an application for Clearance of consignment with Department of Customs and file the necessary documents for generation of Bill of Entry and will receive an Examination order for the consignment. This examination order is generated by Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system of Customs, requiring NOC from FSSAI.
- Application for No objection certificate or Provisional NOC to Food Import clearance system (FICS) of FSSAI– The importer / CHA after generation of Bill of Entry and examination order shall make an application for No objection certificate or Provisional NOC to Food Import clearance system (FICS) of FSSAI. The preliminary documents required to make such an application is as under:
- IE Code issued by DGFT;
- FSSAI Licence issued under FSS Act 2006;
- Bill of Entry;
- Examination order is generated by Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system of Customs;
- Product approval, if required Apart from these preliminary documents additional documents specific to the product are required to be submitted with Food Import clearance system (FICS) of FSSAI, e.g.
- Import Permit issued by Ministry of Agriculture, Governments of India in case of primary agriculture produce or horticultural produce;
- Sanitary Import Permit Issued by Department of Animal Husbandry, in case of livestock products;
- Registration of import contracts for poppy seeds with Central Bureau of Narcotics;
- Certificate of origin issued at the place of manufacturing or processing etc.by Authorized Person or Agency of the food consignment. Certificate of Origin shall contain information on Country of origin etc. if the consignor is from a different country;
- Phyto-Sanitary Certificate issued by the Plant Quarantine Department of Exporting Country in case of horticulture produce or primary agriculture with fumigation endorsement;
- Certificate of Analysis with composition certificate. In case of Wine & Whiskey Test certificate is required;
- End-use declaration.
- Pumping Guarantee Certificate in case of edible oil imported in bulk.
- Stuffing list, Packing List.
- List of transit country.
- Temperature Chart or Report or Graph, if the food consignment trans-shipped under the Cold Chain Technologies (CCT) from the port of origin to the point of import.
- Commercial invoice as mentioned in the Bill of Entry.
- Bill of lading as mentioned in the Bill of Entry for sea consignment.
- Air Way Bill as mentioned in the Bill of Entry for air consignment
- Declaration by an undertaking from the manufacturer that the representative sealed sample is from the same batch of the consignment in case of aseptic package;
- The Importer should furnish an Undertaking in the absence of representative sample for the aseptic package to the effect that they do not have any objection to break open the sealed aseptic container from the consignment and collect the sample for laboratory analysis and the Food Authority is not responsible for any kind of damage to the consignment due to such withdrawal of sample as if is necessary for the clearance of the consignment. the importer shall submit declaration that no claim shall be made for re-testing in case the primary test fails where the sample quantity is insufficient to draw the duplicate sample;
- In addition to the documents listed above, the importer/ CHA shall submit the documents filed with the Department ofCustoms at the time of export as well as copy of the rejection certificate, if any, along with reasons for it issued by the officials of importing country before its re-export where it is a case of re-import.
- Radio Activity Certificate, if irradiation is used;
- High Sea Sale Agreement;
- submit any other report (s) or documents (s) or undertaking (s) or Affidavit (s) as directed and as specified by the Authorized Officer of by the Food Authority from time to time
- Scrutiny of documents by Authorised officer of FSSAI– The authorised officer of FSSAI shall verify each and every document submitted by the importer and may ask for any clarification if required in the matter. If the after due verification and scrutiny the documents are found to be in order the authorise officer raises a demand for the requisite fee as per number of samples applied for clearance.
- Visual inspection of the consignment and sampling thereof by the Authorised officer of FSSAI
- On the deposit of demand of fee raised by the importer/ CHA the authorised officer shall inform the date and time of visual inspection of the consignment which shall be duly acknowledged by importer/CHA.
- After visual examination of the consignment and being ensured about the remaining balance shelf life the authorised officer shall draw two samples in the presence of importer or his representative and shall seal and label it.Out of these two sealed and labelled samples one shall be sent to the notified laboratories and the second sample must be preserved for retesting, if required.
- Laboratory analysis of samples collected: The samples shall be analysed by the laboratory as per the standards and parameters prescribed under Food Safety and Standards Act 2006and regulations made thereunder and shall send its report to the authorised officer of FSSAI with a conclusion whether the product tested conforms to the standards and parameters prescribed under Food Safety and Standards Act 2006and its regulations.
- Issuance of No objection certificate or Provisional NOC by Food Import clearance system (FICS) of FSSAI: On the basis of the laboratory report for its conformance or non-conformance standards and parameters prescribed under Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 and regulations, the No Objection Certificate (NOC) or Non Conformance Certificate is generated.
- Custom clearance of the consignment: Once the No Objection Certificate (NOC) issued by the Food Import clearance system (FICS) of FSSAI is duly submitted by the authorised person to the Customs authorities with the Department of Customs the consignment is cleared for trade or use in India.
It is important here to mention that the consignment of perishable foods items or Fresh fruits along with the food which require special storage condition (Refrigerated warehouse) shall be issued provisional NOC without waiting for laboratory analysis report on the basis of undertaking of the importer.