The Constitution of India guarantees good and healthy life by granting the right to clean air, water, and healthy food. These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution as the fundamental rights. As Article 21 provides the right to life, every individual has a fundamental right to safe and nutritious food. Also, Article 47 of the Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of the state to increase the nutrition level as well as the standard of living so as to improve public health. Due to the increase in economic growth, income, and urbanization, a huge change is identified in the eating habits of the Indians because of which there is increased demand for a variety of food items. Recently in India, various cases of food contamination were reported including the 2015 case of Nestle-Maggie noodles where it was alleged that noodles contain contamination of lead and MSG beyond permitted levels. In this context, there is a requirement for an appropriate solution that ensures the safety of food. The government introduced the FSSAI under the Food Safety and Standards Act which is discussed in this article.
This Act was enacted in 2006 and is applicable to the whole of India. The main reason behind the enactment of this Act was “to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science-based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” In order to ensure that humans are receiving safe and healthy food, there is a requirement for an appropriate Food Safety Management System. As per Section 3(s) of the Act, Food Safety Management System is defined as “the adoption of Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Hygienic Practices, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point and such other practices as may be specified by regulation, for the food business.” Moreover, for maintaining the overall safety, quality, and standard of the food, an authority was created under this Act known as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which is elaborated briefly as follows:
It is a statutory body established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, that maintains India’s food safety and standards. In 2008, FSSAI was set up for monitoring food hygiene and quality in India and has been functional since 2011 for managing food safety. The authority is responsible for promoting and protecting public health via regulation and supervision of food safety. FSSAI is administered under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and has its headquarters in New Delhi. Moreover, it has six regional offices that are located in Mumbai, Cochin, Guwahati, Chennai, Delhi, and Kolkata.
Composition of Food Authority
The Food Authority constitutes a Chairperson and twenty-two other members whereas one-third should be women. Under Section 5 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the composition of twenty-two members is listed which include:
FSSAI works through 11 Divisions which include the Standards Division, Finance Division, Legal Division, Imports Division, Human Resources, Vigilance and Training Division, Regulation, Risk Assessment and R & D Division, Quality Assurance, FSMS Division, Regulatory Compliance, and General Administration Division.
Functions of FSSAI
There are various functions performed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India which include:
Under the FSS Act, following are the offences that are punishable:
The provisions related to the penalties are specified under Section 49 to Section 67 of the Food Safety and Standards Act.
Section 50 (Penalty for selling food not of the nature or substance or quality demanded)
A penalty not exceeding five lakh rupees is liable to any person who sells food to the purchaser which is not in compliance with the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act or the regulations defined within the Act or of the nature or substance or quality that is demanded by the purchaser.
Section 51 (Penalty for sub-standard food)
A penalty that may extend to five lakh rupees is liable to any person or enterprise who whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures a sub-standard article of food for sale or distributes or stores or imports it for human consumption.
Section 52 (Penalty for misbranded food)
A penalty that may extend to three lakh rupees is liable to any person or enterprise who whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures for sale or distributes or stores or imports any article of food for human consumption which is misbranded. In this case, the Adjudicating Officer issues a direction to the person found guilty of an offence to take appropriate action to rectify the mistake or destroy that article of food.
Section 53 (Penalty for misleading advertisement)
If any person or business or company publishes or is a part of a particular publication of an advertisement that falsely described the product or misleads as to the nature or quality or substance of any food or gives a false guarantee, is liable to a penalty that may extend to ten lakh rupees.
Section 54 (Penalty for food containing extraneous matter)
It states, "Any person, whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf manufactures for sale or stores or distributes or imports any article of food for human consumption containing extraneous matter, shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to one lakh rupees.”
Section 55 (Penalty for failure to comply with the directions of Food Safety Officer)
According to this Section of the Act, any food business operator or importer who fails to comply with the requirements of the FSS Act or rules and regulations mentioned therein, as directed by the Food Safety Officer, without any reasonable ground is liable to a penalty which may extend to two lakh rupees.
Section 56 (Penalty for unhygienic or unsanitary processing or manufacturing of food)
Any individual, who manufactures or processes any food item for human consumption under unsanitary and unhygienic conditions is liable to a penalty that may extend to one lakh rupees.
Section 57 (Penalty for possessing adulterant)
As per the provisions of this Act, if any individual himself or by any other person on his behalf manufactures or imports for sale, distributes, sells, or stores any adulterant where such a substance is not injurious or injurious is liable to a penalty not exceeding two lakh rupees or ten lakh rupees respectively.
Section 58 (Penalty for contraventions for which no specific penalty is provided)
If any provisions of the Act or rules or regulations made thereunder are contravened by any individual or business is liable to a penalty that may extend to two lakh rupees.
Section 59 (Punishment for unsafe food)
An individual or person either by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures for sale or stores or distributes or imports or sells any article of food for human consumption that is unsafe is punishable- “(i) where such failure or contravention does not result in injury, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months and also with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees (ii) where such failure or contravention results in a non-grievous injury, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and also with fine which may extend to three lakh rupees (iii) where such failure or contravention results in a grievous injury, such imprisonment for a term which may extend to six years and also with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees (iv) where such failure or contravention results in death, with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and also with fine which shall not be less than ten lakh rupees.“
Section 60 (Punishment for interfering with seized items)
If any individual removes, detains, or tampers any food, equipment, vehicle, package, labeling, or advertising material, or any other thing, without the permission of the Food Safety Officer, that is seized as per the provisions of this Act is punishable under Section 60 of the FSS Act. The punishment can be imprisonment for a term that may extend to six months and with a fine that may extend to two lakh rupees.
Section 61 (Punishment for false information)
Under this Section of the Act, a person is punished for providing any information or producing any document that the person knows is misleading or false with imprisonment that may extend to six months and with a fine that may extend to two lakh rupees.
Section 62 (Punishment for obstructing or impersonating a Food Safety Officer)
It is a punishable act to obstruct, impersonate, intimidate, assault, or threaten the Food Safety Officer without any appropriate reason or excuse. As per this Section, the person who does so is punished with imprisonment that may extend to three months and with a fine that may extend to one lakh rupees.
Section 63 (Punishment for carrying out a business without license)
A person or food business operator is liable to a punishment with imprisonment that may extend to six months and with a fine that may extend to five lakh rupees if they manufacture, sell, store, distribute, or import any article of food without a license.
Section 64 (Punishment for subsequent offences)
If any person found to be guilty of an offence under this Act again commits an offence and is convicted of the same is liable to the penalties: “(i) twice the punishment, which might have been imposed on a first conviction, subject to the punishment being maximum provided for the same offence, (iI) a further fine on a daily basis which may extend up to one lakh rupees, where the offence is a continuing one, and (iii) his license shall be canceled.”
Section 65 (Compensation in case injury or death of consumer)
According to this Section of the Act, compensation is provided to the victim or legal representative of the victim if he/she is badly injured or dies due to the consumption of any article of food introduced by any person or business. Compensation not exceeding five lakh rupees is provided in case of victim’s death, three lakh rupees in case of grievous injury, and one lakh rupees in all other cases of injury. Moreover, the Adjudicating officer or the Court may also order for the license cancellation, re-call of food from the market, forfeiture of establishment in case of grievous injury, and may issue prohibition in other cases.
Section 66 (Offences by Company)
The Food Safety and Standards Act illustrates that any company if commits an offence under this Act then every person (when offence was committed) in charge of the company is held responsible and punished accordingly. It also states that “where a company has different establishment or branches or different units in any establishment or branch, the concerned Head or the person in charge of such establishment, branch, unit nominates by the company as responsible for food safety shall be liable for contravention in respect of such establishment, branch or unit.” Clause 2 of this Section illustrates that if an offence is proved to be committed with the consent or is attributable to any neglect on the part of the Director, Secretary, manager, or any other officer of the Company then they are deemed to be guilty of the offence and punished accordingly.
Section 67 (Penalty for contravention of provisions of this Act in case of import of articles of food to be in addition to penalties provided under any other Act)
This Section states that “Any person who imports any article of food which is in contravention of the provision of this Act, rules and regulations made thereunder, shall, in addition to any penalty to which he may be liable under the provisions of the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 and the Customs Act, 1962 be also liable under this Act and shall be proceeded against accordingly. (2) Any such article of food shall be destroyed or returned to the importer if permitted by the competent authority under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 or the Customs Act, 1962 or any other Act, as the case may be.”
In a nutshell, Strict food safety laws which are based on scientific methods play a mandatory role in safeguarding consumer health. These laws should be implemented right from the “farm to the fork”. The Food Safety laws should be as per the highest International Standards. To ensure that all these safety standards are achieved, regular monitoring of different food processes should be performed. In India, FSSAI is the statutory body that helps to achieve safety standards and improve the consumer’s health. The ‘consumer is the King’ and the food he eats should be fit for the King