Many of the major national and multi-national food and beverage companies have started asking their local distributors and wholesale dealers to obtain licenses under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) 2006.

Because, under the Act, vendors and distributors can be held liable for selling products after its date of expiry, misbranding, and storing in unsafe conditions rather than the manufacturer.

The Act was notified on August 5, 2011. The process becomes mandatory only by February 4, 2014, as the duration has been extended.

The Act (www.fssai.gov.in) states that food business operators functioning without license can be imprisoned for six months and fined up to Rs. 5 lakh.

Dealers found selling substandard products are liable to be fined up to Rs. 5 lakh and those selling misbranded products, up to Rs. 3 lakh.

Some of these penal provisions, however, have been challenged in various courts.

Obtaining these licenses will make the dealer conform to the stringent norms on storage, transporting, and distributing food products.

The dealer must know the entire supply chain right up to the manufacturer.

In the district around 1,750 dealers had obtained licenses and 6,500 had registered themselves.

Conforming to the Act will ensure that high food safety standards are maintained, said R. Kathiravan, Designated Officer, Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration Department (Food Safety Wing), here on Thursday.

Dr. Kathiravan said that the distributors must provide the vendors information regarding the product, its code, and especially the batch number, which was vital in case of a recall being necessitated.

“A couple of months back, a food item had to recalled from a chain of pharmacy stores in Coimbatore and Erode because of fungus formation. Since the company had provided the batch number, we were able to recall the entire shipments quickly.”

All food business operators with an annual turnover in excess of Rs. 12 lakh must obtain licence under the FSSA by paying Rs.2,000.

Those with an annual turnover less than this threshold need only to register themselves by paying Rs. 100.

The licences have to be renewed annually.

In Coimbatore district, the total target was 22,000, of which 14,000 had an annual turnover of less than Rs. 12 lakh, said Dr. Kathiravan.

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