FOOD SUPPLIES

1. Whether the food supplies will be available during the period of complete lockdown?

Answer: Yes, Ministry of Home Affairs vide order no 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 26.03.2020 has issued directions in reference to the complete lockdown, that supplies of essential commodities such as food supplies, medicines etc. will continue to take place with proper precautions.

Moreover the Central Government has also come up with ‘Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana’ under which individuals benefited of subsidized public distribution will be receiving grains and other food supplies.

FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRIES

2. Whether the Ministry of Food Processing Industries has issued any Circular/Notification/Order to address the pandemic of COVID-19?

Answer:  Yes, the  Ministry  of  Food Processing  Industries  vide  Press  Release  ID: 1608340 dated 26.03.2020 has directed to a set-up of a Grievance Cell to ensure hassle free operations and uninterrupted supply of essential for citizens.

A Business Immunity  Platform  is set-up  to help and support   the businesses  and investors.

Food Jndustry

ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES ACT, 1995

3. Under which law or rule, food is considered as essential commodity?

Answer: As per Section  2A of   Essential  Commodities  Act, 1955  provides  that  Essential Commodity includes  those  enumerated under  Schedule I of the  Act. The Schedule  to the Act include food as below;

iii) foodstuffs, including edible oilseeds and oils;

FOOD & RETAIL SECTOR

4. Whether there is any notifications/circular/order issued by the  Government  to include food shops and retailers  under essential commodities?

Answer:  Yes, as  per  the  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  vide  order  no  40-3/2020-D  dated 24.03.2020 has included shops, ration shops, which are dealing in food, groceries, fruits and vegetables,   and  other  food  products  also  as  essential   commodities  during  the lockdown.

Specific directions are also provided  to district  authorities to encourage home deliveries in view of COVID-19.

FOOD RETAIL SHOPS – HYGIENE ASPECT

5. Whether the employees, such as cashiers, cleaning personnel, in food retail  shops  are mandated to use on face masks, hand  gloves and hand sanitizers?

Answer: Per se, explicitly there is no guideline  however these  are advisable  to prevent  the employees who come in contact  with customers  and also to maintain  hygiene during such testing  time of infections.

Further, hand sanitizers should be also kept to contain such outspread.

E-COMMERCE

6. Whether there  are  any  notification/circulars/orders  to  allow  the  ordering   of  food products   through  e-commerce operators?

Answer:  Yes, as  per  the  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  vide  order  no  40-3/2020-D  dated 24.03.2020,   the online  essential  commodities  providers  will be  available  during  the lockdown period.

However situations might arise in the current scenario that due to limited resources the delivery schedule might fluctuate.

DISTRIBUTION OF ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES

7. Whether Government has   released any   procedure/guidelines  for  distribution  of essential commodities?

Answer: Yes, the  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  vide  order  No.  40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 26.03.2020 issued a Standing Operating  Procedure  (“SOP”) for  maintaining supply of Essential Goods.

Under the SOP government allows operations  of suppliers  of essential  goods  including restaurants for home delivery, warehouses and go downs for storage of essential  goods, Transporters/drivers, etc. for transfer of essential goods from manufacturers to retailers.

IMPORT CLEARANCE & TESTING LABS

8. Whether Import clearance and Food Testing Labs are classified as essential services by FSSAI during the COVID-19?

Answer:  Yes, Food  Safety  Standards  and Authority  of  India  vide  Press  Release  dated 31.03.2020 has classified the import clearance of food items and functioning of notified food testing laboratories (including National Food Labs) under Essential Services during the COVID-19.

It also directed all personnel who are assigned charged to be required to be available in office on all working days in order to facilitate the trade as well  as ensure smoother operation of related services across the country.

FSSAI COMPLIANCE

9. Whether there is any specific procedural compliance requirements issued by the FSSAI for Food Business Operators?

Answer: Yes,   Food    Safety   Standards    and   Authority    of   India    vide   order    no 15(6)2020/FLRS/RCD/FSSAI dated 31.03.2020 issued mandate procedure for application for FSSAI License/ Registration through online mode on FLRS and possess  the 17  digit valid application number.

All the details shall be communicated to the commissioner of FSSAI by email by enclosing a FORM M with all the prescribe details which should be duly signed by the applicant.

FOOD BUSINESS OPERATORS

10. Whether there is any notification/circular/order for First Business Operators to cover them under the ambit of FSS Act, 2006 during COVID-19?

Answer:    Yes,   Food    Safety   Standards    and   Authority    of   India    vide   order    no 15(6)2020/FLRS/RCD/FSSAI dated 31.03.2020 issued the directions to include the operations of Food Business Operators (“FBO”) temporarily under Food Safety Standards Act, 2006.

The directions by Food Safety Standards  and Authority of India have also specified for the exclusions of Manufacturer’s from the relief provided in the aforesaid order for FBO’s.

TIME LIMITE BY FSSAI

11. Whether there is any notification/circular/order specifying the time limit for FBOs to cease the business  post  COVID-19 ?

Answer: Yes,   Food    Safety   Standards    and   Authority    of   India    vide   order    no 15(6)2020/FLRS/RCD/FSSAI  dated  31.03.2020  issued  directions  specifying  the  time period for the FBO’s.

The FBOs has to cease there operations within 30 days from the date lockdown ends.

If the FBOs wants to continue their business then proper  valid FSSAI license  has to be applied by them.

FSSAI LICENSE REGISTRATION

12. Whether there is  any  notification/circular/order  specifying  the  procedure   for  the processing of FSSAI License/ Registration  during and post lockdown?

Answer: Yes,  Food    Safety   Standards    and   Authority    of   India    vide   order    no 15(6)2020/FLRS/RCD/FSSAI dated 31.03.2020 issued specific directions and detail procedure for the issuance of the License/ Registration during the time of lockdown and after pre-lockdown specifying the time period for the FBO’s.

It also consist of detail directions for the inspection and issuance of License/ Registration for the essential food and commodities.

ISSUES AWAITING ADDRESSAL DURING COVID -19

  • Regarding Food & Beverages products (F&B), no guidelines or directions exists. Survival of start-ups in present pandemic era, dealing into F&B products has become a big concern due to clouds of confusions of lack of guidelines or directions for F&B products.
  • Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Affairs is silent on the scope of manufacturers, suppliers and other food sellers during lockdown.
  • There is no clarity on the food ingredients companies which manufacture and supply the basic ingredients for food products but they being incidental  and ancillary should be treated at par food products.

FUTURE CHALLENGES

  • As of now, disruptions are minimal as food supply has been adequate and markets have been stable so far. However, we are already seeing challenges in terms of logistics bottlenecks (not being able to move food from point A to point B), and likely, there is less food of high-value commodities (i.e. fruits and vegetables) being produced.
  • Small-scale farmers and fishers also might face challenges accessing markets to sell their products  or buy essential inputs, or struggle  due to higher food prices and limited purchasing
  • Shortages of labour could disrupt production and processing of food.
  • Food demand amongst major population in India is more linked to income, and hence loss of income-earning opportunities could impact on its demand and consumption.

ABOUT US

AMLEGALS is a multi-specialised law firm. We would love to hear your views, queries, feedback and comments on covid19@amlegals.com or rohit.lalwani@amlegals.com.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal opinion, advice or any advertisement. This document is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or corporate body. Readers should not act on the information provided herein without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the facts and circumstances of a particular situation. There can be no assurance that the judicial/quasi-judicial authorities may not take a position contrary to the views mentioned herein.

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