RETESTING OF IMPORTED FOOD BY REFERRAL LABORATORY
Recently the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in accordance with the power conferred to it by Section 16(5) of the FSS Act, 2006 released directives introducing significant amendments in retesting of imported food by referral laboratories. The aforementioned guidelines would lead to reduction in the unwelcome wait time that Custom Handling Agents(CHA)/Importers endure while awaiting the clearance decision for their shipments.
Better resource management was mentioned as another significant justification for implementing these regulations, the Authority continued. Earlier, utilizing the second batch sample of imported food items, the designated referral laboratory was obliged to repeat the entire preliminary inspection, causing unneeded delay. These resources can now be used for testing other outstanding samples thanks to the new FSSAI guidelines, enabling quick action in accordance with the FSS Act.
1. Once the food sample is forwarded by the Authorized Officer to the FSSAI Notified NABL accredited Laboratory, it immediately conducts a preliminary inspection of the sample to determine two things: whether all the information required for testing is present and whether the sample quantity is adequate. If there is any deficiency, the laboratory must notify the Authorized Officer of this deficiency as soon as possible.
2. The recognised laboratory would thereafter adhere to the test procedures outlined by the Food Authority with regard to the procedures to be followed and the tools to be utilized for testing samples of various food article categories.
3. Within five days of the sample's receipt date, the lab would produce a thorough ‘Laboratory Analysis Report’ duly signed by its food analyst in FORM-2. If the sample is deemed to be in compliance, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) is created; otherwise, a Non-Conforming Report (NCR) is generated, which denies the clearance of the food consignment or goods.
4. If the CHA/Importer disagrees with the non-conformance report, he may request a retesting of for at the referral laboratory. The outcome of the test result will determine the fate of consignment.
5. In case if the imported consignment fails at the level of primary laboratory, sample is referred to a referral laboratory upon the receipt of appeal by the CHA/Importer for re-analysis a second sample of imported articles of food. [Sub-regulation (6) and (7) of Regulation 10 of Food Safety and Standards (Import) Regulations, 2017]
6. Accordingly, the second test is carried out by referral laboratories using all the similar parameters listed in the FSS Regulations that were previously employed by the notified primary laboratories.
THE LATEST CHANGE:
The Referral Laboratories' 360-degree revaluation of imported food products at importers' requests would inevitably result in prolonged processing times. To add to adversities, if the samples are determined to be dangerous, the Food Importer was obligated to destroy or re-export such imported food items to the country of manufacture or origin within thirty days of receiving a directive from the Food Authority.
In such an arrangement, the CHA/Importer would suffer considerable capital losses in the event that the second evaluation by the referral laboratory was to be delayed. The good news now is that on account of the latest food directions by the FSSAI, rather than testing all parameters the referral laboratory will only test those whose results in the primary laboratory were found to be non-conformance to the limit specified in the FSS Regulations along-with the applicable safety parameters not tested by the primary lab, if any.