GUIDELINES ISSUED BY FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARD AUTHORITY OF INDIA TO REGULATE E-COMMERCE IN FOOD BUSINESS SECTOR
Reportedly, the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) has recently in December 2018 issued certain directives and guidelines to curb down the non-compliance of food safety standards by the food operators, operating through the medium of e-commerce. The FSSAI issued a press release dated 01.08.2018 which stated that “e-Commerce platforms did not have details of FSSAI license and /or registration in respect of as many as 30% to 40% of the restaurants listed on their sites”. In such a case, the e-commerce platform could only list those restaurants that had FSSAI license or registration.
It has been observed that a number of e-commerce food business operators (FBOs) have been disobeying the mandates issued by FSSAI pertaining to registration/licensing of restaurants, etc and that many food operators, whether operation individually or being a partner with an e-commerce player, remain unregistered or unlicensed.
According to Section 3 (o) of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 as amended thereof (“the Act”), “food business operator” in relation to food business means a person by whom the business is carried on or owned and is responsible for ensuring the compliance of the Act, rules and regulations made thereunder.
According to Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulation, 2011 as amended thereof, all e-commerce FBO’s are required to obtain a license from the Central Licensing Authority for the entire supply chain which shall include its registered office, manufacturers, storage place, distributor, transporter etc. Although, e-commerce entities providing listing/ directory services to the sellers/ brand owners, restaurants, vendors, importers or manufacturers of food products, are not required to obtain license under the Act. But, if an e-commerce entity fulfils the purpose of being an FBO by virtue of an order/transaction on its website, it has to obtain a license/registration and further put it on their virtual/physical platforms for the consumers.
As per the recent directives of FSSAI, the display of the license/registration certificate/number on e-commerce platform or display boards, the agreement between the FBO and the manufacturer or seller to obtain FSSAI license by the latter and the appointment of food safety officers/supervisors, etc, are the mandates to be followed for ensuring that proper food safety guidelines are being followed.
With the implementation of the recent guidelines/regulations of FSSAI, it seeks strict implementation of provisions of the Act. In order to achieve the objects, FSSAI has even directed the e-commerce players to de-list all the FBO’s not having license/registration. Therefore, this would ensure proper compliance of the food safety laws in India.
As per newspaper reports, a number of e-commerce FBOs including Swiggy, Zomato, Grofers, etc. have compiled with such mandates of FSSAI and have also delisted unregistered restaurants from their platform. This is widely believed to be a step towards ensuring proper control over last-mile delivery and safety of food products.
The Indian Lawyer
The Indian Lawyer