Labeling is an important consideration for exporting to India. English is the preferred language for labeling in the country. Indian customs authorities ensure that imported items include the legally required labelling information, which can vary for different products. The Indian Ministry of Commerce requires all pre-packaged commodities intended for direct retail sale that are imported into India to carry the following information on the label:
- Name and address of the importer
- Generic or common name of the commodity
- Net quantity in terms of standard unit of weights and measurements, in metric, and
- Month and year in which the commodity is manufactured, packed, or imported, depending on the product, and the maximum retail sales price (MRP). The MRP includes all taxes, local or otherwise, freight, transport charges, commission payable to dealers, and charges for advertising, delivery, packing, forwarding, and any other relevant charges.
Note that pre-packaged food products meant for institutional use do not require the MRP, but a ‘Not for Retail Sale’ declaration on the label is required. Pre-packaged commodities such as raw materials, components, and bulk imports that undergo further processing before sale to end consumers are not included under these labeling requirements.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, as a statutory body for regulating the manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale, and import of food products as well as its labelling and packaging requirements.
Additional labelling requirements for packaged food products, as stipulated in Part VII of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955, and the Standards of Weights and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules of 1977, require that the labels contain the following information:
- Name, trade name, or description
- Name of ingredients used in the product in descending order of their composition by weight or volume
- Name and complete address of manufacturer/packer, importer, and country of origin of the imported food (if the food article is manufactured outside India but packed in India)
- Net weight, number, or volume of contents
- Distinctive batch, lot, or code number
- Month and year of manufacture and packaging
- Month and year by which the product is best consumed, and
- Maximum retail price
Wherever applicable, the product label also must contain the following information:
- The purpose of irradiation and license number in case of irradiated food, and
- Extraneous addition of coloring material
Non-vegetarian Food: Any foods which contain whole or part of any animal, including birds, fresh water or marine animals, eggs, or any ingredient of animal origin (excluding milk or milk products), must have a symbol of a brown color-filled circle inside a brown square outline prominently displayed on the package, contrasting against the background on the display label near the name or brand name of the food item.
Vegetarian food: All vegetarian foods must have a similar symbol of a green color-filled circle inside a square with a green outline prominently displayed.
All declarations must be:
- Printed in English or Hindi on a label securely affixed to the package; or
- Made on an additional wrapper containing the imported package; or
- Printed on the package itself; or
- Made on a card or tape affixed firmly to the package and bearing the required information prior to customs clearance.
Products displaying only a standard U.S. label cannot enter India. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s Food Safety and Standards (Import) First Amendment Regulations, 2018, states that, “Custom Authorities shall not clear any article of food unless it has a valid shelf life of not less than sixty percent, or three months before expiry, whichever is less, at the time of import.” Product shelf life is calculated based on the information provided on the label of a product.