The new Food Safety and Standards Bill proposes to make life easier for manufacturers, retailers and even hawkers.
While the manufacturing companies and big retailers continue to require licensing, they will be able to avail of a single window facility. Small retailers and hawkers, on the other hand, get freedom from licensing and need just a registration.
The Bill, which was introduced in Parliament by Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant on Thursday, proposes an all-powerful Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, which will be the single window agency for setting rules as well as regulating the sector.
The Bill defines food (or 'foodstuff) as "any substance or product, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, intended to be, or reasonably expected to be ingested by humans and includes drink, chewing gum and any substance, including water, used into the food during its manufacture, preparation or treatment".
Further, it proposes strict regulations regarding advertisements and labelling for food products. As per the Bill, no advertisement shall be made of any food which is misleading or contravening the provisions of the Act.
This means that a company will have to strictly adhere to the advertising code which prohibits misleading claims in advertisements about the effect of products.
The Bill also prevents establishments and companies to sell, stock, distribute and exhibit any food item without a licence.
"Any person or food business operator himself or by any person on his behalf (cannot) manufacture, sell, store, distribute, import or export any article of food without license," the Bill says, adding that violation of the norms could lead to cancellation of licences.
Companies manufacturing food items in multiple premises will have to seek separate licences for each manufacturing location.
At present, there is licence is for food items while manufacturing locations have to get permission in terms of environment clearances and others from local authorities.
Besides, the food authorities will have the powers to suggest changes in the location of manufacturing plant as well as the process, which will be binding on the company.
There will also be different panels under the authority which will be responsible for areas like genetically modified food, plant health, dietetic products, biological hazards, label and food contamination.