The Centre has maintained before the Supreme Court that the Food Safety and Standard (FSS) Act has marked a paradigm shift in the government policy.
This has helped in checking food adulteration as any contravention of standards carries a penalty that may lead to a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and Rs 10 lakh fine.
“The Food Safety and Standards Act is a complete, self-contained and holistic code which comprehensively deals with all issues relating to food safety and wholesomeness,” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated in an affidavit.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under the FSS Act. It lays down the functions and general provisions for food articles, including genetically-modified, organic, functional and proprietary foods, and imposes social responsibility on the food business operators, it said. The Union government rejected the plea made in a PIL about non-existence of laws to deal with food adulteration and charges of ineffective implementation of the extant laws, which covered food products, honey, milk, meat, fruit and vegetables, spices and packaged foods and drinking juices as well.
The adjudicating officer or the tribunal have been given wide powers while deciding penalties for various contraventions. Instances which resulted in death of any person can lead to life imprisonment and fine of Rs 10 lakh.
Under the current legal regime, the consumer is entitled to have food analysed and inform the authorities concerned for launching prosecution against the offending parties, besides seeking compensation. Following the 16th Food Authority meeting held in January, limits of various insecticide residues, antibiotics and veterinary drugs residues have been approved.
As many as 202 insecticide residues for foods and 98 antibiotics and veterinary drugs residues in dairy, meat, egg and other consumable products have been approved by the FSSAI, the government said. The Centre also submitted that the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011, states that fruits shall not be ripened using carbide gas and should be free from waxes, mineral oil and colours.
Though farmers are excluded from the purview of the law, the authorities are saddled with the duty to check samples of mangoes and other fruits to analyse presence of any prohibited substance, the government added.