Health and safety related controls and regulations were imposed on foreign trade with renewed vigor after the formation of the World Trade Organisation and the passing of the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures in 1995. Aimed at protecting the interest of consumers, multiple exporters across the world have been affected by the Agreement's strict guidelines. Indian exporters too initially faced difficulties because of multiple inspections, rejections, and recall under the stricter standards mandated by the Agreement.
In India, the Export Inspection Council (EIC) and Export Inspection Agencies (EIAs) are responsible for ensuring quality control and inspection of exports, and helping exporters achieve the required international quality standards. Export certification by these bodies is necessary for exports from India – particularly food products – to gain global acceptance and adhere to international quality standards. One such crucial certification is an Export Health Certificate.
An Export Health Certificate (EHC) is a document issued by the government of the country of origin of the export goods. It states that the item is certified as suitable for human consumption and meets such safety standards as required for export trade. In the Indian context, this certification is done by the EIC and the EIAs through mandatory certification as well as through voluntary certification programs.
EHCs are given for items such as fish and fishery products, dairy, egg products, meat and meat products, honey, and poultry. Notified products like basmati rice and black pepper, and non-notified products such as coir, tea, auto parts, etc., are also certified by the EIAs. Animal casings, gelatin, crushed bones, additives and pre-mixtures are also eligible. Voluntary certification is done in case of other food and non-food products.
The EIC offers e-health certification service for the following categories:
Health certificates add to the credibility of Indian products in the global market. The certification acts as an assurance of the quality and suitability of the exported item. The EIC is globally recognized as India’s official certifier, and an EHC from it or an EIA increases the acceptability of the certified product.
The EIC offers services such as the installation of quality assurance systems in export units, consignment-wise inspection, and installation of a food safety management system when it comes to food processing.
An EHC is more often a compulsory requirement, like in the case of export of fish products. The health certification system designed by the EIC is globally recognized for the certification of such exports.
The EHC enables exporters to prove that their products meet the international regulations demanded by the importing country. An EHC issued by EIA officials is as per the required timeline and specifications. E-health certifications provided by the EIC are available in 25 major global languages, which enables exporters to venture into non-English-speaking countries successfully.
An EHC issued by the EIC will typically capture the relevant information that was disclosed in the application form by the exporter. This data includes the following:
If an approved establishment wishes to have a health certificate, it has to get a username and password from the appropriate EIA office. A written request is required to be submitted by the head of the establishment on official letterhead. The EIA will accept the written request and liaise with the EIC to allot a username and password. This will be shared with the establishment over an e-mail.
Merchant exporters, on the other hand, have to get their one-time registration done through the EIC website.
As and when the exporter or establishment needs an EHC, they should fill an online application using their username and password. They can also access the e-health certification system using their login credentials and check the status of their application. An application reference number is generated by the system, which can be used by the exporter or establishment for future reference.
Next, they have to contact the concerned EIA office and submit supporting documents, which includes the invoice, packing list, and test reports, along with the fees. While establishments need to submit it to the nearest EIA office, merchant exporters can submit it in any EIA office.
In case of approved establishments, the facility to avail EHC remains available throughout the validity of the approval. Once the approval expires, the username and password get disabled automatically and gets activated again once the approval is renewed.