Indian Food Standards – FSS, ISI, AGMARK, ISI Certification, ECOMARK


Several existing food standards in India are based on the International Codex Alimentarius, with relevant modifications and additions wherever necessary. The most important of these can be grouped into two categories viz. Compulsory and Voluntary:

A. Compulsory Standards

1. Food Safety and Standards (FSS)

The Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006 is the primary law for the regulation of food products in India. This act sets up the formulation and enforcement of food safety standards in India through FSSAI. FSSAI was established by Govt. of India on 5 September 2008 and is responsible for setting standards for food and will be a single point of reference to food safety and standards in India leaving no confusion in the minds of consumers, traders, manufacturers, and investors. Almost all the earlier laws and regulations formulated to ensure the safety and suitability of food for the consumers have been nullified after this Act. FSSAI formulated Food Safety and Standard Rules, 2011 which is an amalgamation of Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulation, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulation, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on sales) Regulation, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (contaminants, toxins, and residues) Regulation, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sampling Analysis) Regulation, 2011; Food Safety and Standards (Transaction of Business at its Meetings) Regulation, 2010; Food Safety and Standards (Procedure for Transaction of Business of Central Advisory Committee) Regulations, 2010 and Food Safety and Standards (Procedure of Scientific Committee and Scientific Panels) Regulations, 2010. As per the act, all food business operators in India must have got license/register with the food safety authority.

2. ISI Standards

Bureau of Indian Standards came into existence on 23 December 1986 under BIS Act, 1986 under the aegis of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. It was formerly Indian Standard Institution (ISI), set up under the resolution of the then Department of Industries and Supplies. BIS is a founder member of the International Organization for standardization (ISO). It comprises members representing industries, consumer organizations, scientific and research institutes, professional bodies, and ministries. So far 15,000 standards have been formulated in different technological areas and these standards fall into categories like Product specification, Method of a test, Quotes of practices and guidelines, Terminologies, and Basic standards.

While the scheme itself is voluntary in nature, the Indian Government has, in the public interest, enforced mandatory certification on various products through various quality control orders issued from time to time, under various acts. In this connection, the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011 has prescribed mandatory ISI certification under the BIS Act for the following products :

  • Infant formula (IS 14433).
  • Milk cereal based weaning food (IS 1656).
  • Processed cereal based weaning food (IS 11536).
  • Follow up formula (IS 15757).
  • Packaged drinking water (IS 14543).
  • Packaged mineral water (IS 13428).
  • Milk Powder (IS 1165).
  • Skimmed Milk Powder (IS 13334).
  • Partly Skimmed Milk Powder (IS 14542).
  • Condensed Milk, Partly Skimmed and Skimmed Condensed Milk (IS 1166).

B. Voluntary Standards

In addition to the mandatory standards, agencies like the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection and Bureau of Indian Standard have also laid down quality standards of foods, which are referred to as voluntary standards. These standards are not legally enforceable and usually do not reflect the quality of the product as a whole, but deal only with the specific aspect of it.

1. AGMARK (Grading and Marketing of Agricultural Products) Standards

‘AGMARK’ the standard was set up by the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection of Government of India under ‘The Grading and Marketing of Agricultural Products Act, 1937’. The Act covers quality assurances of unprocessed, semi-processed and processed agricultural commodities and provides the categorization of commodities into various grades depending on the physical and chemical characteristics, intrinsic as well as acquired during processing or otherwise. The agricultural practices prevailing in the country, consumer preferences and availability of the different farm commodities are taken into consideration while framing these standards.

The mark gives the consumer an assurance of quality in accordance with the standards laid down as the certification is passed only after elaborate testing. All the food processing factories with the certification appoints an expert (chemical) with the permission of AGMARK Officer, who checks and controls the raw materials and produced food product for quality control. The Officer can take the sample from the factory or open market and can get it analyzed independently in the designated food laboratory. If the testing shows that the product is below the required standard, then the factory’s chemical expert services are terminated and the sale of that batch of the food product is prohibited.

The benefits of standardization is made available to the public by providing AGMARK of articles on foods such as pulses, rice, wheat/gram flour, whole/ground spices, edible oils, butter, ghee, honey, etc. Grading of the previously mentioned commodities is voluntary but grading of commodities like basmati rice, essential oil, onion, potato, tobacco, walnut, and spices meant for export are compulsory.

2. ISI Certification (Bureau of Indian Standards) Mark

As previously described BIS was earlier known to be Indian Standard Institution, empowered by BIS Act 2016. BIS is the national standards organization for India, responsible for laying down standards in consultation with and with the active participation of experts drawn from manufacturing units, research, and technical institutions and laboratories, purchase organizations, and other parties involved. The ISI mark on any food article is a guarantee of good quality, as license to use the marks is granted only to producers following ISI-approved methods of production and quality control. The method of manufacture and the premises, as well as the final product, are all subject to inspection by the ISI personal. ISI has its own laboratory at I.T.O., New Delhi, and Ghaziabad along with other small laboratories in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras where the products of license demanding applicants (manufacturers) are tested.

The Indian Standards are available for vegetable and fruit products, spices, condiments, animal products, and various processed foods. The standards are evolved on the basis of physical characteristics and chemical as well as biological assessment as and when required and revised from time to time by various committees set up by the Institution for the purpose. “ISI’ certified food products available in the market can be listed as Edible common salt; Biscuits; Custard Powder; Baking powder; Cocoa powder; Milk powder, Condensed Milk and Infant Milk Food; Baker’s yeast; Vermicelli, Macroni, and Spaghetti; Besan; Cheese; Coffee Powder, Ice Cream; Egg Powder; Saccharin; Drinking chocolate; and Rum, Beer, Gin, Whisky, and Brandy.


The government of India has instituted a scheme known as ‘ECOMARK’ in 1991, for labeling environment-friendly products. This scheme administered by BIS provides labeling of household and consumer products that meet certain environmental criteria along with the quality requirement prescribed in ISI. Any product which is made, used, or disposed of in a way that significantly reduces the harm it would otherwise cause to the environment, is categorized as an environmentally friendly product.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Government of India has so far identified 64 products categories viz. Soaps and detergents, paints, papers, vegetable oil, food items, food additives and preservatives, wood substances, textiles, batteries, lubricating oil, packaging, plastics, aerosols, cosmetics, pesticides and drugs, and electronic goods to be covered under the scheme ECOMARK. For certification under ECOMARK scheme, the manufacturer shall apply testing of products that fall under the notified categories along with the fee set by BIS. The testing and certification shall be carried out by BIS. The label shall be awarded for a minimum period of one year and shall roll forward annually. Primary criteria to be considered for determining product for ‘ECOMARK’ are as follows:

  • Production process including the source of raw material.
  • Case of natural resources.
  • Likely impact on the environment.
  • Energy conservation in the production of products.
  • Effect and extent of waste arising from the production process.
  • Disposal of the product and its containers.
  • Utilization as waste and recycled materials
  • Suitability for recycling or packaging.
  • Biodegradability.

Read More Topics of the Same Course – ABT 5211 – Food Safety and Standards

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