The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has once again extended the licencing and registration deadline for the country’s food business operators. In an embarrassing move by the government’s consumer watchdog, businesses now have another year to secure the necessary paperwork.
Following the FSSAI’s appointment as India’s apex food regulator, new registration rules were announced in 2011 that would hold any business selling edible products to secure a licence or be penalised. Establishments would include hotels, restaurants and food processors, all the way down to grocers, roadside tea stalls, dhabas, and even fruit and vegetable hawkers.
The policy is meant to ensure that all registration and licencing provisions are fulfilled and food items are “hygienic, wholesome and free of contaminants”.
Third time lucky
The new date, February 4, 2014, corresponds to the third time the FSSAI has granted an extension to food operators; as it stands, it has already been a year and a half since the move was first announced. Businesses had originally been given until August 4 last year to make the necessary provisions.
However, the uptake has been poor; so far, a total of 1,100,000 out of India’s 50,000,000 operators have registered with the FSSAI, and only 300,000 have been given a licence. Based on this, the authority wasn’t keen to make more concessions but it bowed to pressure from the Ministry of Health to finally extend the deadline.
A Madhavan, the FSSAI’s assistant director of enforcement, announced the extension in a curt memo, and later told one news service that he was confident the move would be worthwhile.
“I am sure that this year we will be able to complete our targets,” he said to India’s FNBNews. “The health ministry will help us in getting more manpower in order to complete the job on time.”
He added that the authority would be implementing new technology over the coming year to help process applications.
Small traders have welcomed the extension, having previously opposed the provisions of the 2011 Food Safety Act, alleging that the rules had been designed to benefit the interests of foreign companies.
The Confederation of All India Traders said that the regulations would lead to a culture of packaged food products entering the Indian market.