FSSAI Regulations for Ecommerce Food Business Operators

Ecommerce food service operators can submit application for FSSAI license now. Ecommerce food services include delivery services like Swiggy, Zomato, Uber Eats and online grocery portals like Big Basket, Grofers etc. Recently the ecommerce sector has witnessed tremendous growth in the country. These online platforms need to comply with FSSAI to operate widely and provide service in the country.

The scope of acquiring food license has been extended by FSSAI in order to include the operations of these online food suppliers and enterprises. Since these delivery groups and grocery stores are operating extensively, ensuring the compliances has become quite difficult. In 2018, FSSAI acknowledged that the ecommerce service operators often list many restaurants which don’t possess valid registration. There are a few guidelines that need to be adhered to by the ecommerce food businesses. These guidelines include licensing, registration etc. We will discuss about these regulations issued by FSSAI for the service providers dealing with online food delivery.

There are a couple of business model types as per the regulations imposed by FSSAI.

  1. Market-Based Model of E-Commerce: It refers to the ecommerce services that act like a mediator or link between the seller and the buyer by offering an online platform for networking. The ecommerce service providers connect the consumers with the brand owners through an electronic medium.
  2. Inventory-Based Model of E-Commerce: It is a kind of ecommerce platform to offer ownership of food products inventory and services to online food business operators who sell the products directly to the customers online.

Who are considered as ecommerce FBOs?

  • Digital platforms or entities involved in listing the services of the manufacturers, sellers, restaurants etc online via electronic means. This platform is dedicated for facilitation of similar ecommerce operations like Zomato.
  • The brand owners, manufacturers or sellers which display their products for direct selling to the consumers through ecommerce platforms be it market based or inventory based. Ex- Fresh Menu.
  • Delivery enterprises like Swiggy are considered as ecommerce food business operators since they have extended the facility to storage and distribution of the brands listed on their portal. It handles the transportation from the seller to the consumer directly.

Requirement of Licensing and Registration:

In 2011, FSSAI regulation on Licensing and Registration of Food Business made it mandatory to require a food license for ecommerce food business operations. The Central Licensing Authority issues these licenses. Recently, in 2018, a video went viral showing that a delivery guy eating food ordered by the customer. FSSAI immediately issued new regulations and directed all ecommerce operators to appoint only trained and professional delivery agents. This was to ensure the maintenance of quality and safety of food. This mandatory process does not hold true for the ecommerce FBOs involved in extension and listing of products and services. Although, they are essentially required to ensure that violation of FSS and obligation regarding that rests with the brand owners, sellers, vendors and manufacturers of food products.

Also, the FBOs require showing acquiescence with a couple of guidelines:

  • Not provide misleading information or false claims by concerned brand owners, sellers, manufacturers, retailers and others.
  • Not to project any misleading images of food products or services.

Guidelines on listing and other information:

Ecommerce food business operators who are selling food to the consumers through market based or inventory based model, requires adherence to some guidelines:

  • Show clearly the display panel which should not include the batch number, expiry date/best before, maximum retail price of the goods.
  • Provide an indicative image of the good needs to be sold through the ecommerce platform.
  • FSSAI License or the registration number of the platform needs to be stated.
  • Provide information regarding the product or service that is going to be available.
  • Every ecommerce food business operator has to comply with the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses], Regulations 2011 to maintain the basic quality and hygiene of the food products and services. These guidelines are clearly mentioned in Regulation IV.

Since the awareness of the consumers are rapidly increasing, FSSAI has asked the ecommerce FBOs to comply with the regulations. It is also instructed that they must resolve consumer complaints within a specified time period.

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