Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issues guidelines for food business activities through E-Commerce

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issues guidelines for food business activities through E-Commerce

February 8, 2017 Operations 0

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (“FSSAI”) has issued the guidelines for food business activities through E-Commerce (“Guidelines”), with the goal to regulate the Food Business Operators, who sell products through E-Commerce platform.

Background

With the boom in e-commerce business of food products, FSSAI, pursuant to a meeting held with Food Business Operators (“FBOs”), had drawn up draft guidelines to regulate FBOs that run business activities through e-commerce platform.

Key highlights of the guidelines

The following terms have been defined under the guidelines as:

1. “E-Commerce” means buying and selling of goods over electronic and digital network.
2. “Digital and Electronic network” means network of computers, television channels and other internet application used in an automated manner such as web pages, extranets, mobiles etc.
3. “E-commerce FBO” means any food business operator carrying out any of the activities in Section 3(n) of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, through the medium of E-Commerce.

4. “Marketplace based model of e-commerce FBO” means providing of an information technology platform by an e-commerce FBO on a digital and electronic network to act as a facilitator between the buyer and seller / brand owner/ manufacturer. E-commerce marketplace includes entities providing support services to sellers/ brand owners/ product manufacturers in respect of warehousing, logistics, order fulfilment, payment selection, facilitator of delivery and other services.

5. “Inventory based model of e-commerce FBO” means an e-commerce activity where inventory of food products and food services is owned by the e-commerce FBO and is sold to customers directly.

A. Business models of e-commerce FBO

E-Commerce FBO includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1. E-commerce entities providing services to sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers/ restaurants on their platform, thereby providing platform for commerce to the sellers, manufacturers, restaurants etc.

2. Sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers, vendors, importers, processors, packagers or manufacturers who display or offer their food products, including food services, catering services, sale of food or food ingredients for sale to the customers, through either the market based model or inventory based model of e-commerce.

3. Operating and providing storage and/ or distribution services to the sellers/ brand owners, vendors, importers or manufacturers of the food products listed on their marketplace.

4. Providing transportation services to the sellers/ brand owners, vendors, importers or manufacturers of the food products and/ or providing last mile delivery transportation to the consumers.

B. Registration and Licensing

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 Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (“Act”) and the regulations made thereunder, provided that they are not engaged in any activities as specified under the definition of Food Business, as defined under Section 3(n) of the Act.

C. Supply Chain compliance

1. FBOs must ensure that the food articles satisfy the requirements listed under the Act and the rules and regulations made thereunder, at all stages of production, processing, import, distribution and sale.

2. FBOs must not manufacture, sell or distribute, by themselves or by any person on their behalf, food article that is unsafe, misbranded or substandard, or which contains extraneous matter.

3. All the e-commerce FBOs need to sign an agreement with the Sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers to the effect that the Sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers are compliant with the Act and the Rules and Regulations made thereunder.

D. Food product Listing and Information

1. The Sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers, who display or offer any ore-packed food to the consumers, on their own e-commerce platforms or on marketplace based e-commerce platforms, must ensure that the consumer gets to see a clear and legible picture of the pre-packed food.

2. The Sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers, that deal with fresh produce, must provide an indicative image of the produce to the e-commerce FBOs for displaying on their platform to enable the consumers to recognize the product.

3. The Sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers are required to display their licenses/ Registration under the Act and the Rules and regulations made thereunder.
4. Make available to the consumers the mandatory Food information mentioned in the Act and the rules and regulations made thereunder, without charging any supplementary cost.

5. The Sellers/ brand owners/ manufacturers will be read to mean Sellers/ brand owners/ restaurant/ vendor/ importer/ processor/ packager/ Manufacturer, and will be responsible for the listing of the product on the e-commerce platform and will be visible to the end consumer as the ‘Seller’ of the said product or offering.

E. Liability of FBOs

All Sellers/ brand owners/ restaurant/ vendor/ importer/ processor/ packager/ Manufacturer etc. must comply with basic hygiene and sanitary practices as mentioned in the Schedule 4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses), Regulations 2011.

F. Handling of Consumer Complaints

1. As an e-commerce FBO report the complaints by consumers relating to product efficacy and quality or any other issues, immediately, to the Sellers/ brand owners/ importers/ Manufacturing company.

2. The consumer will also be redirected to the call center of the manufacturer, so that the consumer can directly pursue the matter further.

3. The Sellers/ brand owners/ importers or Manufacturers are bound to take action on the complaint raised by the consumer.

4. Consumer complaints must be redressed as per the timelines issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs from time to time.

G. Responsibility of E-Commerce FBO towards recall

The e-commerce FBO/ entity must immediately delist a food product listed on their platform, which are not in compliance with the Act or the rules and regulations framed thereunder.

Source: Food Safety and Standards Authority of India

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