This article on ‘Laws against food adulteration in India: All you need to know’ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
This article delves into India’s laws protecting consumers from adulterated food products. Food adulteration in simple terms refers to the addition of a foreign substance into the edibles that make such a product for a consumer risky for his/her health. The purpose behind such an act is to have financial gains or in some exceptional cases, it might occur due to negligence on part of the manufacturer.
Manufacturers of food products need to follow and meet certain standards set by law in order to sell their products, non-compliance of which would lead to penalties and punishment as applicable under the respective statutory provisions.
Under Article 47 of the Constitution, it is the duty of the State to improve the level of nutrition and public health. Before 1954, each state had a different mandate regarding the regulation of food as this subject came under the concurrent list.
Keeping in view the mandate of Article 47 and the importance of food for sustenance and health, the Government of India enacted central legislation, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, to protect people from poisonous and unsafe products. But this Act could not achieve its target due to lacunae in its standards and procedures. It was operational until 2006, after which it was repealed by the enactment of the Food Safety and Standards Act, of 2006.
Present Statutory Law
Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
The preamble of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSS), states that the main objectives of the Act are to establish a Food Safety and Standards Authority in India, to regulate the entire procedure related to the food market, ensure the availability of safe products and other incidental matters. Section 3 of the Act defines all the terms that come under the domain of food security.
For example, Section 3(1)(a) of the FSS Act defines “Adulterant” as any material which could be used for making the food sub-standard or unsafe, or misbranded. Section 2 of the Act declares that Union shall take the control of food industry as it is a matter of utmost public interest. This provision becomes important as the subject matter of food is under the concurrent list.
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)
The Act under Section 4(1) enables the Central Government to establish a body in order to perform the obligations assigned under the Act. In 2008, in line with such provision, FSSAI was established in order to regulate the framework of the food industry, set scientific standards, sale, import, export, etc. of food products in order to ensure safe and healthy products for human intake. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare holds administrative control over FSSAI.
The main functions of FSSAI are mandated under Section 16(2) of the Act. Setting up scientific benchmarks and parameters is one of the important tasks of the authority. The FSSAI acts as an advisory body whenever the Central or State Governments frame rules in the domain of food nutrition and other related matters. It is their task to promote general awareness and help those people who are involved in food-related businesses.
The implementation of the FSS Act, 2006 at the State level is done through the Commissioner of Food Safety and his officers which include Food analysts, Food Safety Officers, and Designated Officers. These authorities are empowered by Section 29 of the Act to keep a check and ensure that the provisions of the Act are led to their effect at their level. The aforementioned authority shall control the activities related to all stages of the food business including public communication, surveillance, and other ancillary activities.
General Principles Under the Act
In the administration of the provisions of the Act by the Central Government and related authorities, following general principles stated under Section 18 of the Act shall be kept in mind-
- To reach an adequate level for the protection of human life, health, and consumer interest in reference to food standards and safety
- To carry out assessments in order to identify all the risks which in Food Authority’s opinion are relevant.
- In case of ambiguity in relation to the possibility of harmful effects of a certain product, provisional risk management measures may be adopted to ensure appropriate protection. Such measures must be proportionate and only restrict trade up to the levels of necessity.
- If a batch or lot of consumables fails to match the set standards, it shall be presumed to be unfit until the contrary is proved.
Offense and Penalties
Sections 48 to 67 under the Act deal with the offences and penalties. A person who may be adding a substance or removing any constituent or subject food to any process or treatment, with the knowledge that it would disturb the natural chemistry of the product and make it unfit for human consumption is considered to have committed an offence under the Act.
Offences under this Act are mostly settled by way of penalty other than those related to precarious food. Section 49 of the Act gives general guidelines to be kept in mind while adjudicating the penalty. The amount of gain or advantage obtained, or loss caused to any person, the repetitive nature, and the knowledge of the consequences of such act, are the guiding factors to determine adequate penalties.
Provisions under the Indian Penal Code, 1860
Other than the specific enactments (supra), IPC states offences affecting public health, safety, etc. under Chapter XIV, Sections 273 and 274. It explicitly states that any adulteration of food, drink, or sale of such a product shall be punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to six months, a fine, or both. Although the provisions under the specified legislations are given more preference.
In Parle Beverages Pvt. Ltd. v. Thakore Kacharaji, it was held by the Court that the provisions under IPC are not contrary to those under the PFA, 1954, but a person shall not be punished twice under different legislations. So, in actual practice, the State prefers the specific legislation as the penalty under that is more stringent than IPC.
The laws relating to food adulteration have seen a significant evolution from the first Act of 1954 till date. Food being an intricate part of human life, it becomes important to tackle any miss deeds done by businesses or corporations in order to make more money, while playing with the lives of the consumers. The laws today have provisions that create a system that acts as a sentinel against the malpractices of food adulteration. However, it would be prudent for the authorities to ensure that with the pace of changes happening in the global food market the laws and regulations do not stand ineffective.
- Saumya Sinha. (12 November 2022). Laws for prevention of food adulteration in India. Retrieved: https://blog.ipleaders.in/food-adulteration-laws-in-india/
- Samridhi Srivastava. (12 November 2022). What are the laws in India against adulteration of food?. Retrieved: https://lawtimesjournal.in/what-are-the-laws-in-india-against-adulteration-of-food/
- Parle Beverages Pvt. Ltd. v. Thakore Kacharaji, 1988 IGLR 183
- Supreet Kaur. (12 November 2022). Food Adulteration under Indian Penal Code, 1860. Retrieved: https://www.lawinsider.in/columns/food-adulteration-under-indian-penal-code-1860
- Anannya Srusti. (12 November 2022). Food Adulteration in India. Retrieved: https://pscnotes.in/food-adulteration-in-india/#:~:text=The%20Food%20Adulteration%20Act%20was,well%20as%20misbranding%20the%20foodstuff.