Labelling and Customs Regulations in India
All foreign products meant for direct consumption in India require specific labelling.
India’s labelling standards may however deviate from international norms, and improperly labelled goods risk being rejected or detained by customs officials.
Staying abreast with current Indian customs standards helps with the ease of exporting goods to India and avoids delays.
Non-food related labels in India
All imported pre-packaged commodities intended for direct retail sale must include:
- Name and address of importer;
- Generic or common name of commodity packed;
- Net quantity in calculated in metric measurements;
- Month and year of packing in which the commodity was manufactured, packed, or imported; and
- The maximum retail price (MRP) at which the commodity in packaged form must be sold to the end consumer. (The MRP should include all taxes, freight transport charges, commission payable to dealers, and all charges towards advertising, delivery, packing, etc.).
Labels should be in either English or Hindi (though English is preferred).
Packaged food labels in India
- 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; and
- Maximum retail price.
Imported food must also display the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) logo along with the FSSAI licence number.
Additionally, packaged food should indicate whether it is non-vegetarian or vegetarian. In India, non-vegetarian means food which contains any animal or part of an animal. Eggs are non-vegetarian while milk and milk by-products are considered vegetarian.
Non-vegetarian food must have a symbol of a brown dot inside a brown square displayed prominently on the package in a way that contrasts with background of the packaging yet while being displayed near the product’s name or brand. The symbol for vegetarian food is the same but green in color.
Wherever applicable, the product label also has to contain the following:
- The purpose of irradiation and license number in case of irradiated food;
- Extraneous addition of coloring material.
All declarations printed on the item’s packaging must be bold and clearly visible, written only in either English or Hindi (Devnagri Script). Additionally, the lettering should be no less than 1 mm while the width should not be less than one-third of the lettering’s height.
Addressing international concerns over trade barriers
Some of India’s labelling requirements are inconsistent with the Codex General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods and have been criticized by the United States Trade Representative as ‘onerous’ and ‘India specific.’
A 2013 change in labelling, for instance, which required imported food items to display the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) logo and licence number, resulted in containers of imported food stuff being retained by customs officials.
The new Food Safety and Standards (Food Import) Regulations, 2016, however, has made concessions to food importers through attempts to reduce trade barriers and ease importing abilities.
If packaged food products do not contain the proper information – a single, non-detachable label may be affixed to packages at the customs bound warehouse.
This label must display (1) the name and address of importer; (2) FSSAI’s logo and license number; (3) Veg or Non-Veg logo; and (4) the category or sub category along with generic name, nature, and composition for proprietary food.