How to Import Food Products into India

The import of food products into India is controlled by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The FSSAI has published various regulations and notification, which have to be followed while importing food products. If the food products are not as per FSSAI regulations, the consignment will be rejected and will not be allowed into India. Therefore, Entrepreneurs and Businesses that import food products into India must be aware of the FSSAI procedures and regulations relating to food product import. In this article, we look at the FSSAI regulations that concern food import into India.
Licenses and Registrations
The following licenses and registration would be required for importing food products into India. It is important to obtain these licenses or registrations prior to sending any food consignment to India.
– Private Limited Company or LLP (This is optional. However, recommended as it improves transferability of the business and limits personal liability).
– VAT Registration (Required for selling goods or products in India).
– Importer Exporter Code from DGFT (Required for importing or exporting goods)
– Product Approval from FSSAI (if the product proposed to be imported is non-standardised i.e. it is not in conformity with the food standards prescribed under the FSS Act and regulations thereunder).
To register a company or obtain business registrations, visit
Process for importing food products into India
Step #1: Customs Clearance
Prior to the food consignment arriving in a air or sea port in India, the the importing food business operator must prepare an Authority Letter in favour of a Customs Handling Agent (CHA) addressed to the FSSAI/ Authorised officer.
On arrival of consignment, the Customs Handling Agent based on the authorization letter would file an application for clearance of consignment with the Department of Customs based on the Bill of Entry. A Government Customs Agent would verify the consignment and clear the same after clearance of customs formalities and payment of customs duty.
Step #2: Applying for FSSAI Clearance
On obtaining Customs Department clearance, the Customs Handling Agent must file an application in the Food Import Clearance System (FICS) of FSSAI to obtain the ‘No Objection Certificate’.
The documents required to be uploaded in the FSSAI platform for FSSAI clearance are:
– Importer Exporeter Code issued by the DGFT;
– FSSAI Food Business License;
– Bill of Entry;
– Examination Order generated by the EDI system of Customs, therein requiring NOC from the FSSAI.
In addition to the above documents, the additional documents may also be required on a case to case basis:
– Import Permit issued by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India in case of primary agriculture produce/ horticultural produce;
– Sanitary Import Permit issued by Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of India in case of livestock products;
– Registration of import contracts for poppy seeds with Central Bureau of Narcotics, Gwalior;
– Certificate of Origin issued by Authorised Person/ Agency at the place of manufacturing/ processing etc. of the food consignment. Certificate of Origin shall contain information on Country of Origin etc. if the consignor is from a different country;
– Phyto-Sanitary Certificate issued by the Plant Quarantine Department of Exporting Country in case of primary agriculture/ horticulture produce with fumigation endorsement;
– Certificate of Analysis with composition (Ingredients). In case of Wine & Whiskey – Test Certificate;
– End-use declaration – The Food Importer has to clearly declare the end use of the imported food product;
– Pumping Guarantee Certificate in case of edible oil imported in bulk;
– List of transit country, if the food consignment is trans-shipped through more than one country;
– Temperature Chart / Report / Graph, if the food consignment trans-shipped under the Cold Chain Technologies (CCT) from the port of origin to the point of import;
– Stuffing list, Packing List;
– Commercial invoice as mentioned in the Bill of Entry (BoE);
– Bill of Lading as mentioned in the Bill of Entry (BoE) for sea consignment;
– Air Way Bill as mentioned in the Bill of Entry (BoE) for air consignment;
– In case of aseptic package, declaration by an undertaking from the manufacturer that the representative sealed sample is from the same batch of the consignment;
– In the absence of representative sample for the aseptic package, the importer should furnish an Undertaking to the effect that they do not have any objection to break open the sealed aseptic container from the consignment and collect the sample for laboratory analysis and the Food Authority is not responsible for any kind of damage to the consignment due to such drawl of sample as it is necessary for the clearance of the consignment. Similarly, if the sample quantity is insufficient to draw the duplicate sample, the importer shall submit declaration that ―no claim shall be made for re-testing, if the primary test fails;
– In case of re-import in addition to the documents listed above, submit the documents filed in the customs at the time of export as well as copy of the rejection certificate with reasons for such rejection(s) issued by the Officials of importing country before its re-export thereby leading to reimport into India;
– High Sea Sale Agreement;
– Radio Activity Certificate, if irradiation is used;
– Any other report(s) / document(s) / undertaking (s)/ Affidavit(s) as directed and as specified by the Authorised Officer or by the Food Authority from time to time
Step #3: Inspection and Sampling of the Consignment
Once an application is made in the Food Import Clearance System with the above documents, an FSSAI Officer will verify the documents, request more information (if required only). If the application is accepted, the Importer will be requested to deposit fees for FSSAI clearance based on the number of samples.
Also, the FSSAI Officer will fix a date and time for visual inspection of the consignment. During the visual inspection of the consignment, the following parameters will be verified:
– Physical condition of the consignment for visible insects and fungal infestation;
– Valid remaining shelf life of the product is more than the 60% of its original shelf life at the time of import clearance;
– Compliance of the FSS (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, 2011, and the product specific labelling requirements;
– Rectification of labelling defeciencies, namely:
– Name and address of the importer
– FSSAI logo and license number
– Veg / Non-Veg Symbol
After the visual examination, the FSSAI Officer would draw two samples from the consignment for testing. One of the sealed and labelled Food Sample will be sent to a randomly selected laboratory made by the Food Import Clearance System. The second food sample would be stored in appropriate conditions for re-testing, if the need arises.
The samples of imported Food sent by the Authorised Officer would be analyzed by the laboratory as per the parameters defined in the Food Safety and Standards Act and the Regulations. The lab is required to send its report within five days to the Authorised Officer with conclusive opinion about the product tested as conforming or non-conforming.
Step #4 Approval of Food Product into India
If the authorised lab issues an opinion report confirming that the food consignment is in conformance with the FSSAI regulations, the FSSAI Officer would issue a No Objection Certificate (NoC)/ Non Conformance Certificate (NCC). The food product would then be cleared for import into India and released from the customs warehouse.
Food Imports into India NOT requiring FSSAI Approval
The following types of food product import into India do not require FSSAI Approval:
– Export rejected or re-imported food meant for re-export.
– Food articles or ingredients or additives which are being imported for manufacturing of 100% exports products.
– Food imported by Diplomatic Missions.
– Import of Food for Quality Assurance, Research and Development – This imported food cannot be released into the domestic market or used for test marketing or market research purposes.
– Food imported for the purposes of exhibitions & tasting, subject to certain conditions.
– Food received during any disaster/emergency situations.
– Import of food for sports events, subject to certain conditions.