Overview of the different labeling and marking requirements, including any restrictive advertising or labeling practices and where to get more information.
Labeling is an important element for products being exported to India. English is the favorable language for labeling. All packets or even containers should carry information depending upon the consignment. Indian Customs are strict and ensure that imported items have the legally required information before these enter the retail market or are sold for consumption, excluding those products that fall under the EOU segment.
According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Commerce on November 24, 2000, all pre-packaged commodities (intended for direct retail sale only) imported into India must carry the following declarations on the label:
- Name and address of the importer
- Generic or common name of the commodity packed
- Net quantity in terms of standard unit of weights and measurement. All units of weight or measurements must be metric. If the net quantity of the imported package is given in any other unit, its equivalent of standard units must be declared by the importer
- Month and year of packing in which the commodity is manufactured, packed, or imported, and the maximum retail sales price (MRP) at which the commodity in packaged form may be sold to the end consumer. The MRP includes all taxes, local or otherwise, freight, transport charges, commission payable to dealers and all charges towards advertising, delivery, packing, forwarding, and any other relevant charges.
Note: 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.
Compliance of the above-stated requirements must be ensured before the import consignments are cleared by Customs in India. The import of pre-packaged commodities such as raw materials, components, bulk import etc., that need to undergo further processing before they are sold to end consumers are not included under these labeling requirements.
Labeling requirements for packaged food products as laid down in the Part VII of the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) 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, 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
- Maximum retail price
- Wherever applicable, the product label also must contain the following:
- The purpose of irradiation and license number in case of irradiated food
- Extraneous addition of coloring material
Non-vegetarian food – any food which contains whole or part of any animal including birds, fresh water or marine animals, eggs or product of any animal origin as an ingredient, not including 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 in close proximity to the name or brand name of the food
Vegetarian food must have a similar symbol of a green color-filled circle inside a square with a green outline prominently displayed
All declarations may 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
- May be made on a card or tape affixed firmly to the package and bearing the required information prior to customs clearance
Exporters should review Chapter 2 of the “FSS (Packaging and Labeling) Regulation 2011” and the Compendium of Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulation before designing labels for products to be exported to India. FSSAI revised the labeling regulation and a draft notification to that effect was published on April 11, 2018, inviting comments from WTO members. The policy is still pending.
According to the FSS (Packaging and Labeling) Regulation 2011“prepackaged” or “pre-packed food” including multi-piece packages, should carry mandatory information on the label.
Products displaying only the standard U.S. label cannot enter. With regard to the shelf life of imported food items, a Notification issued by the Ministry of Commerce on July 30, 2001, states that: “Imports of all food products, domestic sale and manufacture of which are governed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) promulgated by the FSSAI shall also be subject to the condition that, at the time of importation, these products have a valid shelf life of not less than 60 percent of its original shelf life. The shelf life of the product is to be calculated based on the declaration given on the label of the product, regarding the date of manufacture and the due date of expiry.”