Consumers Beware! Sharp spike in food adulteration, mis-labelling cases

The number of cases registered against adulterated, substandard or misbranded food items has shown a rising trend during the last couple of years.

As per the official data, total 24,195 civil cases and 3,869 criminal cases were lodged by the concerned food safety authorities in various parts of the country during 2020-21 which increased to 28,906 civil cases and 4,946 criminal cases in 2021-22.

The food safety authorities analysed 1,07,829 samples in 2020-21 out of which 28,347 samples were found non-confirming to the prescribed standards. Similarly, total 1,44,345 samples were analysed in 2021-22 out of which 32,934 were found non-confirming.

The government data said that a total 5,220 and 4,890 samples were found unsafe out of the total samples analysed during 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the apex food safety body in the country, is mandated to lay down science-based standards for food articles and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Section 31(1) of Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006 provides that no person shall commence or carry on any Food Business except under a license. Surveillance of Food Business Operators is conducted regularly through intensive surveillance drives by states and UTs.

Officials said that the responsibility for implementation and enforcement of FSS Act 2006, Rules and Regulations made thereunder primarily lies with state and UT governments. While authorities analyse samples, penal action is initiated against the defaulting Food Business Operators (FBOs) by the Food Safety Officers of states/UTs as per the provisions of FSS Act, 2006, Rules and Regulations.

Regarding foods for medical purpose including protein powder and other such items, FSSAI has notified FSS (Food or Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Foods Special Dietary Use, Foods for Special Medical Purpose, Functional Foods and Novel Foods) Regulations, 2016, which specify provisions for regulation of these products in the country.

The articles of food covered under these regulations are required to comply with the general labelling requirements under the FSS (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.

Officials said that since these products are intended for specific physiological conditions or general maintenance of health and are required to be taken as per the regulated usage levels by the specific targeted group, labelling provisions for specific food product categories have also been specified under the said regulations.

These regulations say that the label on such articles of food shall specify the purpose, the target consumer group and the physiological or disease conditions which they address and recommended duration of use.

The label, accompanying leaflet or other labelling and advertisement of each type of article of food should also provide sufficient information on the nature and purpose of the article of food and detailed instructions and precautions for its use, and the format of information given shall be appropriate for the intended consumer.

20221225-082003

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