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EU Comments on India’s Draft Food Packaging Regulations

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The European Union (EU) was the only jurisdiction to submit comments on India’s Draft Food Safety and Standards (Packaging) Regulations, 2017 by the January 5, 2018 deadline. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) notified the Draft Regulations to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on November 6, 2017.

In its comments, the EU notes that the Draft Regulations make mandatory compliance with the relevant Indian Standards (IS) for paper and board materials, metals and alloys, and plastic materials in Schedules I, II, and III, respectively (thus far, compliance with the Standards has been voluntary).  If the Standards become mandatory, the EU requested a sufficient transition period and asked if the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) would make them available free of charge.  Currently, the Standards must be purchased from BIS, with a higher price for non-Indian companies.

Noting that many of the Standards are “not very recent” and that many packaging materials on the market today may not comply with all the requirements considering developments in science and packaging technologies, the EU asked the Indian authorities to consider allowing newer materials if they can be shown to have an equivalent or better safety profile as compared to materials permitted by the Standards. The EU also requested information on the mechanism for submitting requests to BIS  to establish new specifications.

The EU made suggestions relating to other specific provisions of the Draft Regulations, including:

  • Replace the definition of “food grade” with “suitable for food contact”
  • Remove the reference to “different types” in the definition of “multilayer food packaging” so that multilayer packaging materials composed of the same material (e.g., plastic multilayers) would be covered by the definition
  • Replace the current definition for “package or container” with that for “food packaging” provided in ISO Standard ISO/TS 22002-4 (“Prerequisite programmes on food safety – Part 4: Food packaging manufacturing”), i.e., “any product to be used for containment, protection, handling, delivery, storage, transport and presentation of food
  • Remove the terms “primary” and “secondary” as they relate to food packaging, since they are not linked with specific requirements in the notified Draft Regulations; alternatively, replace these terms with “direct contact material” and “indirect contact material” as defined in ISO/TS 22002-4
  • Clarify the intent of the requirement that paper  for direct contact with food be “free from dioxins” to make it enforceable in practice
  • Consider eliminating a descriptive and non-exhaustive list of packaging materials, or otherwise modify the list to reflect what is currently used on the market for certain foods
  • Include provisions in the Regulations on labelling, traceability, and documentation of compliance of packaging materials

India’s Draft Food Safety and Standards (Packaging) Regulations, 2017 and the EU comments can be accessed from the European Commission’s website.