Duty-free shops beyond food safety range: FSSAI
The Dollar Business Bureau
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has stopped regulating imported food and beverages sold at duty-free shops. The decision comes as a surprise to everyone, especially after its internal department had earlier issued a warning of a probable threat of bio-terrorism as well as general safety of consumers.
In January this year, the FSSAI had issued stricter guidelines on food imports to curb sub-standard foods entering into the Indian market. It had said no person shall import any food product without an import license, and no food should be cleared from the custom unless it has 60% shelf life at the point of custom clearance.
The decision comes at a point when FSSAI contends against a case filed by the Hyderabad Duty Free Retail Ltd., a GMR subsidiary, in the Delhi High Court. The firm had underscored that FSSAI has no authority to regulate food and beverage articles sold at various international airports.
But this was overruled by the FSSAI authority in January, as it felt that imported food, irrespective of whether it is sold at duty-free shops or any other part of the country, has to be regulated. The announcement was made to ensure imported food articles are generally safe for consumption and do not in any way promote bio-terrorism.
“I am not sure whether pursuance of this matter would be judicious deployment of our resources, given that this affects only a minuscule number of people (who are, in any case, carrying similar food articles purchased from abroad in their personal luggage),” FSSAI chairperson Ashish Bahuguna had written in January.
The duty-free goods sold in India were estimated to be $215 million annually in 2012, with over 70% food & beverage articles coming under the range of FSSAI regulations. The accumulative business was estimated to reach $3.5 billion by 2021.