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FSSAI introduction of Organic Food Regulations

Organic Food regulations

Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations 2017 were notified in November 2017. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an autonomous authority which is responsible for consolidating food safety standards and regulations. In this blog, we will discuss the specifications of the FSSAI Organic Food Regulations.

What are Organic foods?

Organic food products are a result of socially responsible and environment-friendly holistic agricultural practices. These practices focus on the use of the chemical fee, soil health, biodiversity, etc. Due to these holistic practices, nutritional value in organic food is much higher as compared to conventional food products.

Organic food market in India

In the last few decades, India has emerged as a key player in the global organic food market. Twenty years back our contribution to the organic food market was limited to Tea exports. Now we export more than 300 products to more than 20 countries. These exports make up to 135million metric tonne of certified food products.

Currently, India has the highest number of organic food producers and ranks 9th from the perspective of land dedicated to organic farming. Many farmers are adopting organic farming and state promoting such practices. Sikkim has even been declared as India’s first fully organic state.

FSSAI Regulations Specified for Organic Food

Section 22 of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 specifies that organic food industry in the country will also be regulated by FSSAI. This is done to make sure that there is a single food law in the country. It is acknowledged that organic food products separate regulation as compared to other food products. Thus after consultation with various industry-related organizations, consultants, ministries, etc. Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations 2017[1] are formulated. These regulations cover existing certification systems like:

  • National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) of APEDA, Department of Commerce
  • Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India) of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
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Along with the above mentioned two systems any other system developed and notified by Food authorities will also be covered under these Organic Food Regulations.

Applicability of Organic Food Regulations

These regulations apply to every person either individual or body corporate who is involved in manufacturing, packing, re-packing, imports, sale, distribution, and marketing of organic food are covered under these regulations and are required to comply to it.

Who is not covered under Organic Food Regulations?

Any small scale organic food producer or any organic food producer organization (specified from time to time by Food Authority) who are involved in marketing and sale of their organic food products to the end customers are exempted from compliance of these regulations.

Features of Organic Food Regulations

Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations 2017 has the following features:

  1. Every food product offered for sale is required to comply with applicable provisions of the following system
  • National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)
  • Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India)
  • Any other system specified in the future by Food authority
  1. These regulations are divided into two major parts;
  • Labeling and Certification and
  • Imports & Reciprocity
  1. Labeling requirement
  • While labeling any organic food product it is required that all accurate information relating to its organic status must be specified on it.
  • FSSAI’s Organic Logo must be printed on the labeling of the product.
  • Along with FSSAI logo, the labeling may also carry quality assurance mark or certification mark of any of the systems covered under these regulations.
  1. Display Requirements: The seller or promoter of organic food products must display them in a way that they are distinguished from regular items.
  1. Apart from there Organic Food Regulations, all the other regulations notified under this FSSAI Act must be complied with.
  1. There is no re-certification required for any imports done under any bilateral or multilateral agreements executed based on Indian National Programme for Organic Production and similar organic food standards of the exporting countries. This is subject to the fact that they comply with their respective standards applicable to them. And all such imports must be accompanied by a transaction certificate issued by accreditation body covered by such agreements.
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Certification Requirement for Organic Food Products

While choosing a product consumer analyses it for quality, safety, etc. and only after making an informed decision they purchase it. When it comes to food product they become extra cautious. While everybody is aware of the fact that organic food products are good for health and environment, the decision to invest in them requires the assurance for delivering the quality promised.

To instill the confidence among the consumer regarding their genuineness the certification from regulating authorities is mandated. This certification is mandatory for promoting and selling organic products. These certifications require that laid out standards are complied with.

The Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017 state that all organic food products are required to comply with provisions of NPOP and PGS-India.

For these certifications currently there are 28 Accredited Certification Bodies authorized under NPOP and 562 Regional Councils (RC’s) established under PGS-India.

Criticism against Organic Food Regulations

While this step of introducing separate FSSAI regulations for Organic Food had been much appreciated for better regulation of Organic Food production and instilling confidence among final consumers. There are many industry players have criticized this move and voiced their opinion on the same.

On such pan-India advocacy organization Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) has expressed this disappointment by sending a letter to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. In this letter, they have expressed that these new regulations will prove to be detrimental to the growth of ecological agriculture and organic farming industry.  The move to exempt only small scale farmers who market their own products are exempted from the certification requirement is criticized by them. They have stated that this certification requirement will be an additional burden for all the organic farmer along with existing financial and other requirements.

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Recommendations Proposed

Following recommendations are made by the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture:

  1. Before implementing these Organic Food regulations, similar steps must be implemented by State agriculture departments and Union Agriculture Ministry. They would have given the small scale farmed to better adapt to these pan-India based regulations.
  2. Exemption from certification must be extended to farmers who market their organic food products from retail outlets. And such retail outlets are involved in B2C transactions.

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