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Duplicity regarding Legal Metrology Rules and FSS Act creating hurdles

4,November, 2016
 

New Delhi: The prevailing duality regarding the Legal Metrology Act, 2009/Legal Metrology Rules, 2011 and the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006/Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, with specific reference to packaging and labelling requirements on processed foods, is creating difficulties and confusion in the food processing sector and will be a major roadblock in the minds of investors.

This was informed by the stakeholders of food processing industries to Harsimrat Kaur Badal, minister of food processing industries, at a meeting held to discuss the problems faced by the sector. The former wanted the ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI) to intervene to clear the confusion likely to arise due to the duality of regulations.

The announcement made by the legal metrology department of the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, which stated that the manufacturers of packaged commodities keep 40 per cent of the area of the pack for vital information such as the date of manufacturing, address and nutritional information, and the recently amended rules that give the competent authority the power to specify the rates and quantities of the commodities, has made the processed food industry worried about the future course.

It was stated that the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, was perceived as an act to consolidate the laws relating to food. The objective was a part of the preamble to the Act. Subsequently the Act, and orders such as Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (PFA), Food Products Order, 1955 (FPO), Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992 (MMPO), Meat Food Products Order, 1973 (MFPO) and Vegetable oils, De-oiled meal and edible flour control order, 1967 (VPO) were subsumed under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 as per its Section 97 mentioned under the Second Schedule of the Act.

“However, the Standards of Weights and Measures Act and the related Packaged Commodities Rules, which regulate packaging and labelling aspects continue to apply on food products,” stated a memorandum submitted to the ministry.

“The provisions of these regulations should have been made in-operation to the extent they apply to food products, but the same has not been done as yet, despite repeated requests by the industry,” it added.

“These regulations are now titled Legal Metrology Act, 2009/Legal Metrology Rules, 2011, and continue to cover packaging and labelling aspects of food products and other items,” the memorandum said.

It added that both the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, prescribed regulations on packaging and labelling of food products and were a major irritant to the food industry.

“There are overlapping and conflicting provisions under the two regulations which cause serious harassment and impede growth. And therefore, it is strongly proposed that the Legal Metrology Act, 2009, should not be applicable on food products so as to avoid duality of regulations. Food products should continue to be regulated under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the regulations thereof,” the memorandum added.

It is pertinent to mention here that the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution issued a notification on September 7, 2016 [amending the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodity) Rules, 2011 (LMR) and inserting provisions stating that the competent authority could fix standards quantity and retail sale prices of essential commodities prescribed under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (ECA).]

It was done to control the recent spurt in prices of several packaged commodities such as pulses. However industry sources felt that it could have a detrimental impact on the industry.

Said an industry representative, “The insertion of Proviso in Rule 6 of LMR relating to fixing of prices of essential commodities by the competent authority under ECA may impact the industry as the prices of essential commodities will be regulated by the competent authority of government leaving no power with the industry to have control on the pricing of their commodities/products, which, in turn, may have financial implications for the industry.”

“The industry will be bound to sell the products at prices prescribed by the competent authority as the contravention of it may lead to violation of ECA leading to a fine and even criminal prosecution under several circumstances,” he added.

“The insertion of Proviso is Rule 5 of LMR may not have a negative impact if the standard quantities prescribed by the competent authority are consistent with the standard quantities specified under the Second Schedule of LMR ass the industry is, in any case, complying the standard quantities prescribed in LMR for the commodities mentioned therein,” the representative stated.

“However, if the competent authority chooses to prescribe the standard quantity of essential commodities which differs from standard quantities under LMR, the industry may have to change the packaging of their products as the standard quantity fixed by the competent authority under ECA shall prevail. This may also put an additional financial burden on the industry,” he added.

Further, with regards to the rule that 40 per cent of the space on the package used for vital information, the industry has made several representations before the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, but no action has been taken as yet.

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