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FOOD LAWS: ARE THEY REALLY IMPORTANT FOR THE EXISTENCE?

INTRODUCTION

Food is an indispensable part of human existence, crucial for both physical and mental well-being. The Indian constitution acknowledges this fact, with Article 21[1] guaranteeing not only the right to life but also freedom from hunger and access to food. Consequently, the food industry has emerged as the largest sector in India, with agriculture contributing significantly to the economy’s advancement. In recent times, the food and beverage industry has witnessed a surge in productivity, playing pivotal roles in the production, processing, and distribution of the food chain, ultimately fulfilling India’s food laws’ demands. To safeguard consumer interests and foster industry expansion, stringent laws and regulations govern food production, distribution, and consumption. This blog endeavours to delve into the intricacies of food laws in India.

NEED FOR FOOD LAWS

Food is that source of energy that we directly intake into our body it is important to maintain certain food standards. Good quality food helps us intake high levels of nutrition instead of adulterated elements causing health hazards. The proper maintenance of food quality through food laws prevents the exploitation of the consumer by establishing the criteria for food products and the health of the consumers. It also makes sure that there is a fair-trade practice when it comes to food. With the recent trend of packaged food, it has become necessary to take steps towards food safety so that the citizens are safe from severe health impacts like diarrhoea, nausea, cardiovascular diseases and financial damages, So in short food, laws aim to safeguard the interest of the consumers as wells their health because only safe food would lead to healthy lifestyle ultimately leading to a healthy economy. 

HISTORY OF FOOD LAWS

Food is part of our ancient history from the primitive age to the modern era, so to ensure food safety it can be traced back to the 20th century when regulations were first made in India. 1954 Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA)[2], the first food regulation act for Safety and prevention from adulteration was enacted, and amended thrice in the years 1964, 1976, and 1986 to maintain and strengthen its provisions. This act was enacted for the whole of India and also regulated the use of chemicals, pesticides flavours, and additives which are used in food processing. Diving into the deeper history of food laws, we can get clear traces of it in the rich ancient culture of India where food punishments and adulterations were mentioned in the Arthashastra by Chanakya written around 375 B.C.[3] Before independence also all the provinces had their food laws like the Bengal Food Adulteration Act (1919)[4], the Bombay Prevention of Food Act (1925)[5], the Madras Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (1918),[6] and the Punjab Pure Food Act (1929)[7] all these were based on British Food and Drug Act 1892[8], the act was made to narrow down the fraud and economic deception.

CURRENT LAW REGULATIONS IN INDIA

India is one of the seven largest countries by area where a large variety of crops are grown in the different regions from north to south and east to west it is important on having a food standard to preserve it[9]. The Food Safety And Standards Act, 2006 was implemented, which is considered one of the relevant acts due to the notable changes it brought in the safety standards for food by laying down science-based regulations for manufacturing, storage, sale, and distribution. Although this act was made in 2006, it was enforced in 2011[10]. Even the Food Safety And Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) formed in 2008[11] having headquarters in Delhi was formed under the (FSA),2006, FSSAI promotes public health through the regulation of food safety[12]. In FSSAI food products are divided into two types one is standardized and the other one is non-standardized. Standardized ones are those not require any final approval from the FSS Act for their activities but non-standardized ones require approval and have to follow the FSS Act[13], if a food article that is imported is unknown or new it also requires prior approval under the sec 22 of the FSS Act[14], in M/s Nestle India Limited v The Food Safety And Standards[15], Maggie faced legal problems because of advertising its product without FSSAI Approval and misleading the consumer by labelling the consumer that no MSG is added although it was there plus excessive content of lead was found. The high court of Mumbai delivered the judgment that variations of Maggie will be tested, and will be further allowed to manufacture if only a permissible amount of lead is found and directed to get the approval of FSSAI and delete the no added MSG line.

Before FSSA, 2006 there were specific acts related to food like –

  • Fruits Products Order, 1955 (All fruits and fruits beverages);
  • Meat food product Order, 1955 (All meat and meat products);
  • Vegetable Oil Products1947(vanaspati and edible oil used for hydrogenation);
  • Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order 1998(All edible oil products);
  • Solvent Extracted Oil, Deoiled meal and Edible Flour Order, 1967(All edible oils/Flours and similar products);
  • Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992 (All Milk Products and fluid Milk).[16]

FOOD PAVING THE WAY TO OUR CONSTITUTION

The most vital role in a country is played by the constitution of India, it holds all the political power of the country. In a democratic nation, all the laws made by the government must be constitutionally valid. The basic role of the Constitution is to ensure that improved public health is provided by the government. These results in the enactment of various food laws by improving nutrition as well as the standard of living like in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[17] enhanced the scope of Article 21 of the Indian constitution where earlier it just mentioned about Right to life but now it has implied the right to safe and nutritious food, considering it as one of the important requirements.[18] In another case of Center for Public Interest Litigation v. Union of India &Ors[19] it held that the right to livelihood with dignity can only be done by healthy and safe life which is feasible through nutritious and balanced food.

Article 39A of the Indian Constitution[20] directs the state to make such policies that confer citizens the right to adequate livelihood whereas Article 47 directs the state to increase the nutrition level as well as standard of living as a priority.[21] Under the remedy provided by Article 32 of the Indian Constitution right to Food has been made a Fundamental right[22].   

DO CONSUMERS HAVE A REMEDY?

What if a wrong is done to the consumer which caused their death or injury, how will they compensate? To provide relief under section 65 of the FSS Act 2006 the victim has to be paid not less than ten lakhs in case of death and not less than three lakhs in case of grievous injury[23]. All the compensation should be provided as early as possible or a maximum of 6 months without any delay. The adjudicating officer can also cancel the license in case of grievous injury or death.

CONCLUSION

Food is one of the most basic necessities of life, is the responsibility of every nation to ensure that our intake is not adulterated. The laws governing it plays a vital role in the food industry. With the change of century and advancement, it is important that the laws are updated for example in the Consumer Protection Act 2019 there was an inclusion of e-commerce which will ultimately help the aggrieved consumer in bringing down the violators[24]. It is the duty of the government to make sure that the products available in the market are sufficient without compromising on their quality. As healthy foods create a healthy mind and lifestyle it is the duty of the government to ensure its safety through the laws. At last proper upgradation and implementation of the laws according to the constitution and in consideration of the changing situation through various legal frameworks will help the food industry to increase its standards and ultimately achieve the goal of food safety.

Author(s) Name: Bhavya Mittal (National University of Study and Research In Law, Ranchi)

Reference(s):

[1] Constitution of India 1950, art 21

[2] Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954

[3] Joseph Lewis, ‘Indian Food Laws -Ancient to Modern -in search of change’(Nutrition Meet Food Science,3 January 2019) <https://nutritionmeetsfoodscience.com/2019/01/03/indian-food-laws-ancient-to-modern-in-search-of-change/> accessed 07 July 2023

[4] Bengal Food Adulteration Act 1919

[5] Bombay Prevention of Food Act1925

[6] Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1918

[7] Punjab Pure Food Act 1929

[8] British Food and Drug Act 1892

[9] Ajay Singh et al., ‘Foods Law and Regulatory Authorities; An Indian Perspective’(Researchgate, January 2021)

<https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ajay-Singh-48/publication/348295790_Food_Laws_and_Regulatory_Authorities_An_Indian_Perspective/links/5ff6a47992851c13fef3447e/Food-Laws-and-Regulatory-Authorities-An-Indian-Perspective.pdf > accessed July 7, 2023

[10] Food Safety and Standard Act 2006

[11] Food Safety And Standards Authority of India 2008

[12] Priyank adas gupta, ‘FSSAI: About, History , functions and Importance’(Adda24/7 Current Affairs, 29 December 2022) <https://currentaffairs.adda247.com/fssai-about-history-functions-and-importance/#:~:text=FSSAI%20was%20established%20on%205th,a%20chairman%20and%2022%20members> accessed 07 July 2023

[13] ‘Novel Foods Regulations And their Approval Process in India’ (Food Safety Mantra) <https://www.foodsafetymantra.com/regulatory-insight/food-supplements/novel-food-products/novel-foods-regulations-and-their-approval-process-in-india/> accessed 07 July 2023

[14] Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, s 22

[15] M/s Nestle India Limited v The Food Safety And Standards [2015] 1688 (WPL)

[16] Food Safety and Standard Act,2006’(Food Safety and Standard Authority of India) <https://fssai.gov.in/cms/food-safety-and-standards-act-2006.php> accessed 07 July 2023

[17] Maneka Gandhi v Union of India (1978) 1 SCC 248

[18] Indian Constitution 1950, art 21

[19] Center for Public Interest Litigation v Union of India & Ors WP (C) 5235/2018

[20] Indian Constitution,1950, art 39A

[21] ‘Right to Food – A Fundamental Right’(National Human Right Commission <https://nhrc.nic.in/press-release/right-food-fundamental-right> accessed 08 July 2023

[22] Indian Constitution 1950, art 32

[23] Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, s 65

[24] Consumer Protection Act 2019