हिंदी

Rajasthan HC Addresses ‘Food Adulteration’ Crisis

Food Adulteration

The Rajasthan High Court has taken suo motu cognizance of the rising issue of food adulteration and issued several directives to the State and Central governments.

A single bench of Justice Anoop Kumar Dhand identified gaps in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and highlighted the shortage of food testing labs necessary to scrutinize food manufacturing and processing industries. The Court observed that the food authority is understaffed and underfunded, unable to keep pace with the growing number of food industries.

Concerns Over Technology and Procedures

The Court noted, “Due to a lack of proper technology at the ground level, food authorities are not competent to monitor the situation. There are doubts about the standard procedures followed by various laboratories across different States while scrutinizing products.”

In light of this, the judge initiated a public interest litigation (PIL) on its own to find solutions for ensuring good health for all. It emphasized that citizens are protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India against hazardous and injurious food articles, and under Article 47, it is the welfare State’s duty to safeguard these rights. However, the Court pointed out that the law does not address all problems, particularly those involving unorganized sectors.

The Court also observed that the Central government is aware of the issue, as evidenced by the Food Safety and Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2020, framed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Nevertheless, this bill has been stalled in the legislature for reasons unknown.

Interim Directions Issued

Given the seriousness of the situation, the Court issued the following interim directions to the State and Central governments:

(a) Effective Implementation: Both governments are instructed to enhance the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

(b) High-Risk Areas Monitoring: The State Food Safety Authority (SFSA) should identify high-risk areas and times for food adulteration and collect samples from these locations regularly.

(c) Lab Infrastructure: The SFSA must ensure that testing laboratories are adequately equipped with the necessary infrastructure and technical personnel.

(d) Regular Sampling: The SFSA and District Authorities should implement regular sampling of food products.

(e) Periodic Snapshot Tests: Periodic snapshot summary tests should be conducted at various levels—State, District, Urban, and Rural.

(f) Formation of Committees: A State-Level Committee, led by the Chief Secretary and Additional & Principal Secretary of Health Welfare and the Food Department, along with a District-Level Committee led by the District Collector, should be established to oversee anti-adulteration efforts.

(g) Awareness and Complaint Mechanism: Both Central and State governments, along with relevant departments, should set up a website to inform the public about the complaint mechanism, food safety responsibilities, and contact details for Food Safety Officers, including a toll-free number.

(h) Monitoring and Compliance: The governments should monitor compliance and unethical practices by Food Authorities and Officers through a robust complaint mechanism.

(i) “Sudh ke Liye Yudh” Scheme: Appropriate steps should be taken to effectively implement the “Sudh ke Liye Yudh” scheme.

(j) Public Awareness Campaigns: The State Government/Food Authority/Commission of Food should disseminate information through various media channels—SMS, FM Radio, Television, Newspapers, Print, Electronics, and Social Media—about the health impacts of adulteration and educate children in schools through workshops and seminars on detecting adulterated food.

The Court also directed authorities to submit monthly compliance reports on food sampling and steps taken to combat adulteration. The matter is scheduled for the next hearing on July 30.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte