The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has vide its order dated September 25, 2020 mandated display of "Best before date" on non-packaged/ loose sweets, container /tray holding sweets at the outlet for sale mandatory with effect from October 01, 20201. The order also states that the FBO's (Food Business Operators) can also display "Date of manufacturing", however the same is voluntary and not mandatory.
The aforesaid order has been issued by the Food regulator in suppression of its previous order dated February 24, 20202, whereby the FSSAI had mandated display of both "Date of Manufacturing" as well as "Best Before Date" on non-packaged/ loose sweets, container /tray holding sweets at the outlet for sale with effect from June 01, 2020.
The February order also mandated display of "Date of Manufacturing" and "Best before date" for pre-packaged sweets on their labels as per the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.
Hence, the FSSAI vide its order dated September 25, 2020 has relaxed the aforesaid compliances and made the display of the "Date of Manufacturing" on the container/ tray holding the non-packaged or loose sweets voluntary while "Best before date" remains mandatory.
The FSSAI has also directed that:
- FBO's shall decide and display "best before date" depending upon the nature of product and local conditions
- FBO's dealing in sweets shall comply with the aforesaid directions and the Commission of Food Safety of all States and UT's shall ensure compliance by such FBO's.
Food Safety assumes substantial prominence in India owing to the fact that India has always been a great host of multiple cuisines owing to its love for food and the desire to serve. However, the food industry in India is not untouched by the vices of adulteration and food adulteration particularly in sweets has been quite rampant lately. Moreover, considering that festivities in India which is dominated by consumption of sweets is about to begin, the compliance of the aforesaid FSSAI order by FBO's dealing in sweets may help to ensure food safety and standards to a great extent.
A Brief on Food Safety Laws in India
Regulatory mechanism for commercialization of food in India
In order to monitor the laws relating to food, the Government of India enforced the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as the "Act"). The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (hereinafter referred to as "FSSAI") is the authority for regulating food laws in India. FSSAI is responsible for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
Packaging of food- India
In order to ensure the marketable value and durability of the food products intended to be sold in the Indian market, the manufacturers are required to follow sound packaging practices which enable the longer storage of food products in adequate storage conditions thus extending the timeframe during which the same remains consumable. The Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and labelling) Regulations, 2011 (hereinafter referred to as "Rules") along with the Legal metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 prescribe for the specifications of the packaging to be used to store food products and the declarations to be made thereon enabling the consumers to make an informed decision before purchasing the food product.
Compliances to be made by sweet shops?
India being a land of diverse cultures and festivities is a home to various delicacies including sweets which accomplish the celebrations. The country has a rich heritage and tradition including preparation of fresh sweets at the local sweet shops and their distribution on different occasions, thereby carving a special place in hearts of those having a "sweet tooth". However, the sweet shops are bound to ensure compliance to hygiene and safety norms while preparing the sweets for consumption.
While FSSAI has introduced norms aiming to adopt best hygiene and safety practices while preparing food products, including non-packaged or loose sweets having limited shelf life and storage time, it has struck a balance by considering the interests of those selling such food items in the form of reduced compliance burden. Since the mentioning of "Best Before Date" suffices the objective of consumer protection in respect of the said non-packaged or loose sweets, FSSAI has done away with the compulsion of stating "Date of Manufacturing" thereby ensuring consumption of non-packaged or loose sweets to be a sweet experience.
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