Its terms will also require manufacturers, distributors, exporters and warehouses that set up online to secure a Food Safety and Standards Authority of India licence from the Central Licensing Authority.
While listings sites, which do not deal directly with food orders, are exempt from the draft policy, they are still bound by other rules governing misleading claims, false advertising and claims from sellers, vendors and manufacturers.
"E-commerce companies shall clearly specify on their platform that liability of any violation of the Food Safety and Standards Act and applicable rules and regulations made thereunder would be with sellers, restaurants, vendors, importers or manufacturers of the food products," said the notification.
The new policy comes from the Central Food Monitoring Authority, which has devised a number of new norms for enhancing food safety in India. If implemented, it will govern all the leading online food delivery sites and restaurant search portals.
The FSSAI will finalise the draft policy document based on the feedback and comments it gets from stakeholders. The guidelines were formed on the basis of discussions between the regulator and food business operators in March.
The boss of one leading food testing lab has come out in support of the policy, saying that food e-retailers will be able to collaborate in achieving wider food hygiene and safety.
Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs said the step served as a much-needed improvement for public health.
“The new notification on e-commerce marketplaces is an excellent move by FSSAI. It gives a lot of clarity to e-commerce companies on what they need to do.
Though interpretation of FSSAI regulations can be a challenge for companies, “[the draft policy] will ensure that the end-customer gets safe products and are assured of food safety even when they buy online,” Bhadri added.
Some 20 e-commerce businesses focus on selling food items in India. These include Big Basket, Swiggy and Grofers, while international giants such as Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal also offer food items on their platforms.
More stories from South Asia…
Doubling of processed food sales responsible for Indian packaging growth
India’s packaged food sales have doubled to US$51.5m in the five years from 2010, while the value of the food and beverage packaging market has reached US$16bn, according to a recent study.
The Assocham-TechSci joint report found that the segment had been growing at a compound annual rate of around 16% between 2010 and 2015.
“In the wake of the increasing disposable incomes and growing number of nuclear families, the market share of packaged food in the processed food market is expected to marginally increase to about 29% in 2016 from about 28% in 2015,” it said.
The US$4bn plastic food packaging market currently accounts for around 63% in India’so overall plastic packaging sales, which are currently valued at about US$7bn.
The market for multilayer plastic food packaging is estimated at about US$1bn—some 22% of the total segment.
“Growing usage of packaging material in various food service outlets together with increasing demand for packaged beverage and expanding working class population has given impetus to food packaging industry in India,” said DS Rawat, secretary general of Assocham.
The report comes as the government announced it was looking to double the quantity of foods processed in India by the end of its term in power.
"Once five years of this government are up, the food processing levels which are at 10 per cent should at least have reached 20%,” said Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the food processing minister, who has recently been travelling to promote India as a destination for foreign direct investment.
"In my recent trip to the UK all top retailers in the food business including Sainsbury, Tesco, Harrods, Marks & Spencer, whoever was into food, evinced huge interest," she added.
Coca-Cola to train 350k grocery students with emphasis on food safety
Coca-Cola University aims to train 350,000 students how to run groceries and convenience stores by the end of next year.
The education wing of the multinational’s Indian operation runs skill training programmes for traditional kirana retailers. It will use classroom training and a “Coca-Cola University on Wheels” bus to perform the training.
The initiative, which has run a kirana training programme for the last eight years, will add a training module on food quality and safety later this year.
The module will focus on the owners and employers at dhabas and other small food service outlets and street food vendors, mostly in the unorganised sector.
According to the National Restaurant Association of India projections, this unorganised segment is expected to be worth US$45bn by 2021, and provide direct employment to half of the 8.7m food service workforce.
CCU’s training and up-skilling programme will function under the government’s Skill India initiative, which aims to provide more skilled job applicants.
“We recognise the government’s vision that if we have to promote the development of our country, then our mission has to be skill development and skilled India,” said Sameer Wadhawan, vice-president of HR at Coca-Cola India.
“The Coca-Cola system in India has already taken several steps towards skill enhancement, both in the social as well as sporting arenas. We share India’s urgency on skill training and want to do more than our fair share towards this goal.”
Market update: Herbs and spices
Delayed monsoon in the main growing regions of India, allied with steady demand from China, have supported chilli prices recently.
According to Mintec, the commodities analyst, these prices will remain firm due to lower production over the past year. Acreage for the 2016-17 crop is expected to increase 30% year on year as a result of the high prices seen in 2015-16. The main crop will be harvested in January-February next year.
Ginger prices have fallen this year, due to a sharp rise in production in southern India. Large revenues from ginger cultivation seen over the past few years have prompted farmers to increase the acreage planted for ginger. In addition, improved farming techniques have also led to higher ginger production this year. Ginger production for India in 2015 is estimated at 800,000 tonnes.
Coriander prices are down year on year due to an increase in production and the high quality of this year’s crop.
Low prices may negatively impact the size of next year’s crop, though prices have risen recently, driven by concerns over a drought affecting key growing regions in India.
Pepper prices have weakened due to subdued demand in traditional pepper buying markets, such as the EU and the US, over the summer vacation period.
New arrivals from Indonesia and Malaysia also added downward pressure to prices, despite expectations that production in these countries will decline year on year. Production volumes in Vietnam are expected to improve later this year.