Food Laws in India

International food trade is a 200 billion dollar a year industry, with billions of tonnes of food produced, marketed and transported. Here we shall discuss food regulations in India.

The History of the present legislation

The Parliament in the exercise of its legislative powers as conferred in entry 18 of List III has enacted the FSS Act in the interest of Public Health and to safeguard the constitutional guarantee to the citizens as conferred under the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution, from the perspective of human health and consumption of food being a necessary concomitant of this fundamental right. This Act is a successor to the provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act which stood repealed by the FSS Act, which also held a regime from the time it was brought into force in the year 1954 till it was repealed by the FSS Act. It was welfare legislation aimed at preventing health hazard which would be caused by consuming adulterated food.

The Food Authority

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food-related issues in various Ministries and Departments. FSSAI has been created for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and State Food Authorities are jointly responsible for implementation & enforcement of FSSA, 2006.

The Statute & Rules


The scheme of the FSS Act reveals the legislative intent to include every possible aspect regarding the manufacture, processing of foods, distribution of food articles, its ultimate sale and import to ensure safe and wholesome food.

Food and Safety Rules 2011

Food safety and standards (contaminants, toxins and residues) regulation, 2011

Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and sampling analysis) regulation, 2011 Link Icon103 KB
Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) regulation, 2011 Link Icon155 KB
Food safety and standards (Prohibition and Restriction on sales) regulation, 2011 Link Icon104 KB
Food safety and standards( Food product standards and food additives) regulation, 2011 (part II) Link Icon283 KB

There is a mandatory requirement of displaying FSSAI License Number at food premises. The FSDB will replace the current requirement in the Food Safety and Standards regulations which necessitate food businesses to display FSSAI Registration/license. FSDBs will not only make the registration/license number visible but will also inform the customer and the food handler about the important food safety and hygiene practices required to keep food safe. It will also provide details of various feedback options available to reach FSSAI.

Commissioners of Food Safety/Officer-In-Charge For Food Safety In States/UTs( enforcement authority)

The enforcement is primarily undertaken by all Food Safety Commissioners of
State/UT along with Designated Officers and Food Safety Officers.

FAQs on Enforcement

Licensing and Registration System                   [   Application Forms]

Vegetarian mark and non-vegetarian mark

vegetarian food  Non Vegetarian food

The FPO mark is a certification mark mandatory on all processed fruit products sold in India such as packaged fruit beverages, fruit-jams, crushes and squashes, pickles, dehydrated fruit products, and fruit extracts, following the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006. The FPO mark guarantees that the product was manufactured in a hygienic ‘food-safe’ environment, thus ensuring that the product is fit for consumption.

AGMARK is a certification mark employed on agricultural products in India, assuring that they conform to a set of standards approved by the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection, an agency of the Government of India. The AGMARK is legally enforced in India by the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act of 1937 (and ammended in 1986). The present AGMARK standards cover quality guidelines for 205 different commodities spanning a variety of Pulses, Cereals, Essential Oils, Vegetable Oils, Fruits & Vegetables, and semi-processed products like Vermicelli.

India Organic is a certification mark for organically farmed food products manufactured in India. The certification mark  certifies that an organic food product conforms to the National Standards for Organic Products established in 2000.

The Statutes analysis


Key ideas

An Act to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Food means any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and includes primary food to the extent defined in clause (zk), genetically modified or engineered food or food containing such ingredients, infant food, packaged drinking water, alcoholic drink, chewing gum, and any substance, including water used into the food during its manufacture, preparation or treatment but does not include any animal feed, live animals unless they are prepared or processed for placing on the market for human consumption, plants, prior to harvesting, drugs and medicinal products, cosmetics, narcotic or psychotropic substances:
Provided that the Central Government may declare, by notification in the Official Gazette, any other article as food for the purposes of this Act having regards to its use, nature, substance or quality;

food business means any undertaking, whether for profit or not and whether public or private, carrying out any of the activities related to any stage of manufacture, processing, packaging, storage, transportation, distribution of food, import and includes food services, catering services, sale of food or food ingredients.

primary food means an article of food, being a product of agriculture or horticulture or animal husbandry and dairying or aquaculture in its natural form, resulting from the growing, raising, cultivation, picking, harvesting, collection or catching in the hands of a person other than a farmer or fisherman;

Unsafe food means an article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected as to render it injurious to health:—
(i) by the article itself, or its package thereof, which is composed, whether wholly or in
part, of poisonous or deleterious substances; or
(ii) by the article consisting, wholly or in part, of any filthy, putrid, rotten, decomposed
or diseased animal substance or vegetable substance; or
(iii) by virtue of its unhygienic processing or the presence in that article of any harmful
substance; or
(iv) by the substitution of any inferior or cheaper substance whether wholly or in part; or
(v) by addition of a substance directly or as an ingredient which is not permitted; or
(vi) by the abstraction, wholly or in part, of any of its constituents; or
(vii) by the article being so coloured, flavoured or coated, powdered or polished, as to
damage or conceal the article or to make it appear better or of greater value than it really is;
(viii) by the presence of any colouring matter or preservatives other than that specified in respect thereof; or
(ix) by the article having been infected or infested with worms, weevils, or insects; or
(x) by virtue of its being prepared, packed or kept under unsanitary conditions; or
(xi) by virtue of its being mis-branded or sub-standard or food containing extraneous  matter; or
(xii) by virtue of containing pesticides and other contaminants in excess of quantities specified by regulations.

“Sale” with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions, means the sale of any article of food, whether for cash or on credit or by way of exchange and whether by wholesale or retail, for human consumption or use, or for analysis, and includes an agreement for sale, an offer for sale, the exposing for sale or having in possession for sale of any such article, and includes also an attempt to sell any such article.

Section 34 enables the Designated Officer to issue emergency prohibition notice if the Designated Officer is satisfied that a situation exists which would bring about a health risk by any food business. The Designated Officer in such a situation is required to apply to the Commissioner of Food Safety for imposing prohibition notice. The Commissioner of Food Safety on being satisfied on the application of the Designated Officer that ‘health risk condition’ exists in regard to any food business the Commissioner by an order would impose a prohibition. A safeguard has been provided in sub-section 3 that the Designated Officer shall not apply for an emergency prohibition order unless at least one day before the date of application the Designated Officer has served notice on the Food Business Operator of his intention to apply for an order of prohibition.

  • section 5 provides that an emergency prohibition order shall cease to have effect on the issuance by the Designated Officer, a certificate that he is satisfied that the Food Business Operator has taken sufficient measures for justifying lifting of such an order. Such a certificate would be issued by the Designated Officer within 7 days of the application as would be made by the Food Business Operator for such certificate and the Designated Officer being satisfied and by giving reason in support of such satisfaction. The object of this provision is to overcome an emergency situation in the interest of public health, nevertheless a safeguard firstly the Designated Officer issuing an emergency prohibition notice so that an opportunity is given to the Food Business Operator to himself remedy a situation of the breach of the food safety norms and breach of the regulations and on failure to act as such by the Food Business Operator to approach the Commissioner of Food Safety for an order of prohibition. The petitioners’ contention is that such a provision would be subject to misuse as it is impossible to have compliance of the requirement of Schedule 4 and more particularly when a provision like the requirement of potable water is provided for, which becomes impossible of compliance in villages and many parts of the country.

Procedure for launching prosecution–(1) The Food Safety Officer shall be responsible for inspection of food business, drawing samples and sending them to Food Analyst for analysis.
(2) The Food Analyst after receiving the sample from the Food Safety Officer shall analyse the sample and send the analysis report mentioning the method of sampling and analysis within fourteen days to Designated Officer with a copy to Commissioner of Food Safety.
(3) The Designated Officer after scrutiny of the report of Food Analyst shall decide as to whether the contravention is punishable with imprisonment or fine only and in the case of contravention punishable with imprisonment, he shall send his recommendations within fourteen days to the Commissioner of Food Safety for sanctioning prosecution.
(4) The Commissioner of Food Safety shall, if he so deems fit decide, within the period prescribed by the Central Government, as per the gravity of offence, whether the matter be referred to,–
(a) a court of ordinary jurisdiction in case of offences punishable with imprisonment for a term up to three years; or
(b) a Special Court in case of offences punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding three years where such Special Court is established and in case no Special Court is established, such cases shall be tried by a Court of ordinary jurisdiction.
(5) The Commissioner of Food Safety shall communicate his decision to the Designated Officer and the concerned Food Safety Officer who shall launch prosecution before courts of ordinary jurisdiction or Special Court, as the case may be; and such communication shall also be sent to the purchaser if the sample was taken under section 40.

  • Food Safety Standards Rules,2011 reveals that Rule 3.3 provides for procedure for an appeal to the Appellate Tribunal. A perusal of the provisions of Section 68 read with rules 3.1.1. and 3.1.2 of the Food Safety and Standards Rules,2011 clearly show that the Adjudicating Officer shall have power to hold inquiry for the purpose of adjudicating offences punishable under sections 50 to 58 and 64 to 67 of the Food Safety Act,2006
  • Section 50 is as regards an offence for selling food, not of the nature or substance or quality demanded. Section 51 pertains to dealing in sub-standard food. Section 52 pertains to dealing in misbranded food. Section 53 provides for misleading advertisement pertaining to food. Section 54 provides for offence in respect of food containing extraneous matters. Section 55 is as regards failure to comply with directions of the Food Safety Officer. Section 56 pertains to an offence for unhygienic or unsanitary processing or manufacturing of food. Section 57 pertains to offences relating to possessing adulterant and section 58 pertains for contravention for which no specific penalty is provided. Section 64 provides for punishment for subsequent offences. Section 66 provides for offences by companies and section 67 concerns offences for contravention of provisions of the Act.

  • There are many facets which are covered under these penal provisions. Sections 50 to 58 and sections 64 to 67 provide for different offences under the FSS Act and the punishment thereof. Against an adjudication by the Adjudicating Officer, an appeal is provided before the Appellate Tribunal.

Penalty for misleading advertisement–Any person who publishes, or is a party to the publication of an advertisement, which–
(a) falsely describes any food; or
(b) is likely to mislead as to the nature or substance or quality of any food or gives false guarantee, shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to ten lakh rupees.
(2) In any proceeding the fact that a label or advertisement relating to any article of food in respect of which the contravention is alleged to have been committed contained an accurate statement of the composition of the food shall not preclude the court from finding that the contravention was committed.

Compensation in case injury of death of consumer(S 65)–(1) Without prejudice to the other provisions of this Chapter, if any person whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures or distributes or sells or imports any article of food causing injury to the consumer or his death, it shall be lawful for the Adjudicating Officer or as the case may be, the court to direct him to pay compensation to the victim or the legal representative of the victim, a sum—
(a) not less than five lakh rupees in case of death;
(b) not exceeding three lakh rupees in case of grievous injury; and
(c) not exceeding one lakh rupees, in all other cases of injury:
Provided that the compensation shall be paid at the earliest and in no case later than six months from the date of occurrence of the incident:
Provided further that in case of death, an interim relief shall be paid to the next of the kin within thirty days of the incident.
(2) Where any person is held guilty of an offence leading to grievous injury or death, the Adjudicating Officer or the court may cause the name and place of residence of the person held guilty, the offence and the penalty imposed to be published at the offender’s expense in such newspapers or in such other manner as the Adjudicating Officer or the court may direct and the expenses of such publication shall be deemed to be part of the cost attending the conviction and shall be recoverable in the same manner as a fine.
(3) The Adjudicating Officer or the court may also,—
(a) order for cancellation of licence, re-call of food from market, forfeiture of establishment and property in case of grievous injury or death of consumer;
(b) issue prohibition orders in other cases.

Civil court not to have jurisdiction(s 72).–No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceeding in respect of any matter which an Adjudicating Officer or the Tribunal is empowered by or under this Act to determine and no injunction shall be granted by any court or other authority in respect of any action taken or to be taken in pursuance of any power conferred by or under this Act.

Time limit for prosecutions(s-77).–Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no court shall take cognizance of an offence under this Act after the expiry of the period of one year from the date of commission of an offence:
Provided that the Commissioner of Food Safety may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, approve prosecution within an extended period of up to three years.

Safeguards for defaulters –  The authorities are required to follow a procedure of issuing a notice or a show-cause notice before taking up of any restrictive or prohibitive action. The example of such caution as incorporated in the legislation can be seen in the provisions of section 32 where the Designated Officer is empowered to issue improvement notice setting out grounds on the basis of which notice has been issued. Further, safeguard has been provided that on the failure of the Food Business Operator to comply with improvement notice the licencee would be issued a show cause notice as to why licence granted to him should not be canceled. Sub-section 4 of section 32 provides for an appeal to the Commissioner of Food Safety against any order passed or issuance of improvement notice, refusal to issue a certificate as to improvement, or cancellation or suspension of Food Safety whose decision thereon shall be final.

Another example of such safeguard is contained in section 34 which concerns emergency notices. Thus, the contention as urged on behalf of the petitioner that there is no remedy for the persons against whom orders are passed under the other provisions of the Act, is wholly misconceived and without any substance.

Food Law basics

  • Food safety is not the same as food quality
  • The primary strategy for enforcing food laws is to prevent food from being sold
  • It is the task or burden of the food business to establish that the food is NOT adulterated or misbranded
  • The provisions of this Act[FSS] shall not apply to any farmer or fisherman or farming operations or crops or livestock or aquaculture, and supplies used or produced in farming or products of crops produced by a farmer at farm level or a fisherman in his operations.
  • FSS Act reveals that it is a licensing provision which requires that no person shall commence or carry on any food business except under a licence.

Food offences:-

Adulteration of food & drink items is criminal offence under the  Indian Penal Code 1860

SEC 272. Adulteration of food or drink intended for sale- Whoever adulterates any article of food or drink, so as to make such article noxious as food or drink, intending to sell such article as food or drink, or knowing in to be likely that the same will be sold as food or drink, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

[Punishment- Imprisonment for 6 months, or fine of 1,000 rupees, or both None- Cognizable- Bailable- Triable by any Magistrate- None-compoundable]

SEC 273. Sale of noxious food or drink- Whoever sells, or offers of exposes for sale, as food or drink, and article which has bee rendered of has become noxious, or is in a state unfit for food or drink, knowing or having reason to believe that the same is noxious as food or drink, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, of with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

[Punishment- Imprisonment for 6 months, or fine of 1,000 rupees, or both None- Cognizable- Bailable- Triable by any Magistrate- None-compoundable]

On perusal of Section 272 it is clear that it provides for the punishment to a person who adulterates any article of food or drink, so as to make such article noxious as food or drink, but that would become an offence provided he does so with the intention to sell articles as food or drink and the maximum sentence prescribed therefor is imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both. Similarly, Section 273 IPC also makes it an offence against the person who sells or offers or exposes for sale as food or drink, any article which has been rendered or has become noxious or in a state unfit for food or drink, but it also provides that it would be an offence provided he does so knowingly, or having reason to believe that the same is noxious and the punishment which is prescribed is imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both. It is to be noted that I.P. Code no where defines ‘food’ or ‘drink’ or ‘article of food’ or ‘drink’ or ‘sale’.  Missing definition should be borrowed from  THE FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS ACT, 2006 

Food and Agriculture Organisation on the United Nation (FAO)


  • Strengthening national food control regulatory frameworks, and enhancing member country participation in Codex;
  • Providing independent scientific advice through the JECFA and JEMRA expert bodies to support the standard-setting work of Codex;
  • Enhancing food safety management along food chains to prevent diseases and trade disruptions;
  • Promoting food safety emergency preparedness to build resilient agri-food chains;
  • Developing online platforms for global networking, databases for information sharing and tools to support food safety management.

Food Security INDEX

American Food laws

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)


European Food Safety Organisation

Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety

Scientific Outputs [ Read journal and Food issues]

Global food security Index    (private organisation)

The Global Food Security Index considers the core issues of affordability, availability, and quality across a set of 113 countries. The index is a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model, constructed from 28 unique indicators, that measures these drivers of food security across both developing and developed countries.

Global Food Safety Initiative  The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) brings together key actors of the food industry to collaboratively drive continuous improvement in food safety management systems around the world.

ISO 22000 family – Food safety management

The ISO 22000 family of International Standards addresses food safety management. The consequences of unsafe food can be serious and ISO’s food safety management standards help organizations identify and control food safety hazards. As many of today’s food products repeatedly cross national boundaries, International Standards are needed to ensure the safety of the global food supply chain.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary requirements and quality standards


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