Laws on Food Adulteration

EMPLOYMENT LAWS ON FOOD ADULTERATION

Author: Ms.Lepakshi ThakurChanderprabhu Jain College of Higher Studies

Food adulteration is the process by which the value of the food or its produces is abridged through the accumulation of an alien or inferior substance or the elimination of a vital element. Food adulteration is of 3 types:

  • Intentional adulteration
  • Incidental adulteration
  • Natural adulteration

Intentional adulteration means expressively adding some unwanted substances to the food or removing/replacing some of the items and making it of poor quality. This is done for making additional profits by decreasing the cost of production or by increasing the quantity. Intentional adulterants comprise sand, marble chips, stones, mud, chalk powder, water, foreign seeds, and leaves, etc. Many of these can easily be detected.

Incidental adulteration Sometimes food gets incidentally or unintentionally polluted in fields (e.g. crops) during growth and harvesting, storage, processing, transportation and handling by the producers as well as by the consumer. Pesticides and insect residues, metals, droppings of rodents, larvae of insects, the microorganism may enter the food at any stage.

Natural adulteration occurs due to the presence of certain chemicals or harmful substances naturally occurring in foods e.g. lead from water pipes joints mixes into the water. Pesticides seep into the soil with water which is taken up by the plants grown on such soil. Some types of fish, some ranges of pulses, mushrooms, etc. are poisonous for human consumption.

LAWS GOVERNING THE FOOD INDUSTRY

The Indian food processing industry is controlled by several laws that govern the aspects of sanitation, licensing and other authorizations that are required to start-up and run a food business. The legislation that dealt with food safety in India was the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as “PFA“). The PFA had been in place for over 50 years and there was a necessity for change due to varied reasons which include the changing requirements of our food industry.

The act brought into force in place of the PFA is the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA) that dominates all other food-related laws. It specifically repealed eight laws which were in operation prior to the enforcement of FSSA:

  • The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
  • The Fruit Products Order, 1955
  • The Meat Food Products Order, 1973
  • The Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947
  • The Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order, 1998
  • The Solvent Extracted Oil, De oiled Meal, and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967
  • The Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992
  • Essential Commodities Act, 1955

Need for the new act:

FSSA recruits the synchronization of India’s food regulations as per universal ethics. It inaugurates a new national regulatory body, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), to develop science-based principles for food and to regulate and monitor the manufacture, processing, storage, distribution, sale and import of food so as to guarantee the accessibility of safe and wholesome food for human feeding. All food imports will, therefore, be subject to the provisions of the FSSA and rules and regulations which as notified by the Government on the 5th of August 2011 will be applicable.

BACKGROUND

The adulteration of food is a subject in the Concurrent List of the Constitution[2] Prior to 1954, there were quite a few state laws to control the quality of the food. However, there was a change in the provisions of different states and this posed problems in trade between different provinces. The need for Central legislation was felt. Thus, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 was enacted by the Union legislature to wrestle the problem of food adulteration which was extensive in the country. This Act was in action until it was abolished in 2006 by the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006.

LAWS AT PRESENT:-

CENTRAL LEGISLATION

There were many defects in the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. Thus, to eliminate those flaws and unite the laws relating to food safety and standards, the Parliament enacted the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (hereafter referred to as ‘FSSA’). Section 91 of the Act authorizes the Central Government to make rules under the Act. Some of these rules enacted by the Government which controls the standard of food products are:

  • 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 (Laboratory and Sampling Analysis) Regulation, 2011.
  • Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011.

PROVISION UNDER FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARD ACT, 2006

The Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 is an inclusive legislation dealing with several aspects with respect to the regulation of food safety. The provisions under the Act can be divided into various heads.

ESTABLISHMENT OF VARIOUS AUTHORITIES AND THERE RESPONSIBILITIES

The FSSA establishes various authorities for the effective implementation of the provisions of the Act.

  • Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) is established under Section 4 of the Act. It is the most important authority which supervises and regulates food safety and standards.
    • The Act provides that it’s head office shall be in Delhi.
    • Moreover, it can also establish offices in any other place.
    • FSSAI is a body corporate having perpetual succession, common seal and the right to own and dispose of the property in its own name. Like any other body corporate, it can sue and be sued in its own name.
    • It consists of a chairperson and 22 members selected by a Selection Committee constituted by the Central Government.
    • The Act also provides for the appointment of Chief Executive Officer by the Central Government. He is the legal representative of the Food Authority.
  • The Act provides that the Food Authority shall establish various other authorities.
    • A Central Advisory Committee for ensuring cooperation between the Food Authority and the enforcement agencies.
    • Scientific Panels in order to deliberate on certain matters in consultation with representatives of the concerned industry along with consumer representatives.
    • Scientific Committee to advice the Food Authority on various issues by giving their scientific opinion.
  • The Act empowers the State Government to appoint a Commissioner of Food Safety for the State for effective implementation of the provisions at the State level.
    • The Commissioner of Food Safety is given the authority to appoint a Designated Officer for each district.
    • The Commissioner is also empowered to appoint Food Safety Officers.

OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

Section 48 lays down the offences. It provides the conditions where a person shall be liable for interpreting any food item hazardous by a number of means such as adding to it an article or substance or removing certain essentials from the food which results in a weakening of its quality.

FSSA provides for penalties and punishments for contravening the provisions of the Act.

The Act consists of a comprehensive list of offences in which the penalties shall be imposed.

  • A penalty for selling of food which is not of the quality as per the regulations under the Act. The penalty, in this case, shall not exceed five lakh rupees.
  • A penalty for manufacturing for sale, storing, selling, distributing, importing food of sub-standard quality which may extend to five lakh rupees.
  • A penalty for manufacturing for sale storing, selling, distributing or importing misbranded food products which may extend to three lakh rupees.
  • The Act prohibits misleading or deceptive advertisements and there is a penalty for the same which may extend to ten lakh rupees.
  • A penalty is also prescribed for manufacturing, storing, selling, distributing or importing a food product containing extraneous material and such penalty may extend to one lakh rupees.
  • The Act imposes a penalty on the food business operator or importer who fails to comply with the provisions of the Act which may extend to two lakh rupees.
  • There is a penalty which may extend to one lakh rupees for manufacturing or processing food in unhygienic or unhealthy conditions.
  • The Act also imposes a penalty for the possession of adulterant.
  • Further, the Act also lays down that if no separate penalty is provided and an act is in contravention to the provisions or regulations of the Act, then a penalty shall be imposed which may extend to two lakh rupees.

ACCORDING TO SECTION 2(A) OF THE PREVENTION OF FOOD ADULTERATION ACT, 1954, AN ARTICLE OF FOOD IS SAID TO BE ADULTERATED IF:

  • It contains any other substance which disturbs or is so processed as to affect injuriously nature, substance or quality;
  • Any low-grade or inexpensive substance that has been replaced wholly or partly in the article so as to affect injuriously nature, substance or quality;
  • Any essential component of the article that has been wholly or partly distracted so as to affect injuriously nature, substance or quality.

PROCEDURE TO COMPLAIN

Whenever any person comes to know or sees that any person is committing food adulteration, the consumer can file his complaint at;

Tier 1: Manufacturer/ shopkeeper

Tier 2: Local Health Authority of India or district commissioner of the food safety authority of the state/ union territory

Tier 3: Consumer Forum

The consumer forum is existent at three levels, namely at the district level, state level, and the national level. The grievances have the original jurisdiction at the district level and appellate jurisdiction at the state and the national level.

Consumers can also connect to FSSAI (The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) which is a legislative body to control the rules and regulations which are specified in the Food Safety and Standards Act. Recently launched an online platform called the ‘Food Safety Voice’ where consumers can register their complaints and food safety issues about adulterated food.

I as a consumer can definitely approach the Manufacturer or the shopkeeper or Local Health Authority of India or district commissioner of the Food Safety Authority of the state/ union territory or Consumer Forum. It is the duty of the manufacturer/producer/wholesaler to hear my grievances and shall provide compensation for the same before the expiry of the period of six months.

COMPENSATORY REMEDIES THAT THE VICTIM OF FOOD ADULTERATION CAN AVAIL

  1. As per the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the following remedies can be availed to the victims under section 65 of the act stated above;
  2. Any person who by himself or any other person manufactures a food article which may be harmful to the consumer or his death shall be made liable to pay the victim a fine which may be exceeded to

i) Not less than five lakh rupees in case of death;

ii) Not exceeding three lakh rupees in case of grievous injury;

iii) Not exceeding one lakh rupees in all other cases of injury.

Provided that the compensation needs to be paid before six months and in case of death, an interim relief should be sent to the victim’s family within a period of thirty days.

CONCLUSION

The food adulteration laws have been growing with the changing needs of the time. Earlier there were different laws for different provinces that were revoked and combined by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. However, even this Act could not stand the test of time and had to be revoked due to numerous defects. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the regulations made under the Act broadly deal with the issue. However, it is important for the authorities under the Act to be cautious so that actual results are achieved.

References

[1] Punishment for Food Adulteration- FSSAI, India Filings, https://www.indiafilings.com/learn/punishment-food-adulteration-fssai/.

[2] INDIA CONST. Schedule VII, List III, Entry 18.

[3] Section 31, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

[4] Section 18, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

[5] Section 43, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

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