Date of Judgement:
9th December 2021
Vipin Sanghi, J.
Jasmeet Singh, J.
Petitioner: Ram Gaua Raksha Dal.
Respondent: Union of India & Ors.
The Delhi High Court has said that the right of a person is being affected by what is offered on a platter, and it is the fundamental right of a person U/Art. 21 and 25 to have full and complete information as to what food article is being served to him and simultaneously complete disclosures have to be made regarding the food article being ‘Vegetarian’ or ‘non-vegetarian’.
- Article 21 of the Constitution of India – states that No one's life or personal liberty may be taken away unless in accordance with legal procedures." Article 21 of the Constitution defines 'life' as more than only breathing. It does not imply a purely animal existence or a life of hardship.
- Article 25 of the Constitution of India – states that All citizens have the right to freedom of conscience, as well as the freedom to profess, practice, and spread religion.
- Section 26 of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 – states that
- Non-vegetarian ingredients have long been accused of being utilized in the creation of vegetarian food items/snacks such as potato chips, noodles, jellies, sweets, and so on, and non-disclosure of ingredients used might unwittingly interfere with persons who want to eat exclusively vegetarian.
- Upon being called by the Hon’ble High Court respondent no.2 has submitted an affidavit-based report. The same has been looked into. The Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006, as well as the regulations enacted under it, are described in the stated report.
- The Hon’ble Court has taken note of the standard of regulation of the Food safety act, which defines ‘Non-veg’ food to mean a piece of food that comprises whole or parts of any animal, including birds, freshwater or marine creatures, eggs, or animal-derived products, but not milk or milk derivatives, as an element.
- Following after directives issued by the Hon’ble Court,the criteria for the declaration of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food goods are specified in Regulation 2.2.2 (4) of the aforementioned Regulations, according to the testimony signed by Ms. Smita Singh, Assistant Director (Legal), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
- To which learned counsel for the petitioner has contended that considering animal fat,the source of animal fat/oil, other than milk fat, must be mentioned according to the regulations. The Regulations expressly demand the declaration of the fat source, i.e., whether swine fat/lard, beef fat, or extracts thereof were employed.
- Furthermore, learned counsel for the petitioner also submits that When it comes to other components, such as cheese and gum base, there is no necessity to disclose the precise source from where such materials for the manufacturing of the food article, such as cheese or gum base, are obtained.
- Additionally, ld. Counsel points out the material facts as that both cheese and gum might be made with either vegetarian or nonvegetarian components. He also contends that the Food Business Operators' failure to insist under clause 2(d) on the disclosure of compound ingredients that make up less than 5% of the food (other than food additives) seriously infringes on consumers' rights, they are kept in the dark regarding whether these complex elements are vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
- Following which it leads to the infringement of the fundamental rights of the consumers U/Art. 21, 19(1)(a) and 25 of the Constitution of India, which infringes their right to freedom of ‘informed choice’.
- On the other hand, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondent no.2 submits that Section 26 of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006 imposes sufficient obligations on Food Business Operators to ensure that articles of food meet the requirements of the Act and the Rules & Regulations promulgated thereunder at all stages of production, processing, import, distribution, and sale within the businesses under their control.
- Whether the non-compliance of the Food safety & standards corporation to section 26 of the act, 2006 tantamount to violation of fundamental rights of the citizens at large?
- Whether the Food Business Operators’ failure to insist under clause 2(d) on the disclosure of compound ingredients would invite a class-action suit against the breach of such non-compliance?
- The Hon’ble High Court, said that there is an obligation on the Food Business Operators to make a full and complete disclosure of the ingredients of the food item in accordance with regulation 2.2.2, regarding labelling.
- Also, the Hon’ble Court pointed out that some of the Food operators have been taking advantage of the loophole of the misread regulations which does not oblige, except in the case of specified stated exclusions, Food Business Operators must reveal the source of the ingredients used in the manufacture/production of food goods.
- And with respect to the compound ingredients which constitute less than 5% percentage of the food, there lies an exemption from making an explicit declaration on the packets or labelling.
- Furthermore, the Hon’ble High Court observed that the Disodium Inosinate, a disodium salt of inosinic acid, is used as an additive in packeted instant noodles, potato chips, and other snacks. And it is commercially prepared from fish and meat, and it is often sourced from pig fat, Food business operators frequently fail to indicate in their packaging – in accordance with the aforementioned Regulations – that the food article in which the said component is employed is a non-vegetarian product.
- Food business operators frequently fail to indicate in their packaging – in accordance with the aforementioned Regulations – that the food article in which the said component is employed is a non-vegetarian product.By affixing the green dot to many food items that include animal-sourced components, they are mislabelled as vegetarian.
- The Hon’ble took into its account as to deceit done by the manufacturers and non – compliance is resultantly going against those who are wishing to profess strict vegetarianism. The same adulteration of non-veg items would lead to offending various religious and cultural sensibilities and sentiments of the vegetarian people.
- Additionally, the Hon’ble High Court has held that a person has the right to know what he or she is consuming and nothing can be served on the platter by resort to deceit or camouflage said the court strictly emphasizing the non-compliance.
- Finally, the Hon’ble Court directed the respondents to ensure that all ingredients used in the creation of any food item are fully disclosed, not just by their code names, but also by whether they come from a plant or animal source, or are synthesized in a laboratory, regardless of their percentage in the food item.
- Also, the Food Business operators were directed to ensure strict compliance of Regulation under 2.2.2(4) on the usage of any ingredients, in whatever measure to be listed out on the product packaging before the sale.
- Additionally directed respondent no.2 to verify any such claims made by the Food Business Operators, and any connivance or failure on the part of respondent No.2 or its officials to execute their responsibilities will expose all such officers to claims by aggrieved parties and legal action.
- The court directed the respondent to present the report regarding compliance in respect and the hearing is set to next date – Listed on 31/01/2022.
Food Business Operators will undoubtedly be needed to re-evaluate their ingredient lists as well as reclassify their food items in light of the re-evaluation in order to ensure compliance with the Order.The failure of the authorities, the Central Government and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, to check the lapses is leading to non-compliance with the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the Regulations, as well as deception by such Food, Business Operators of the general public, particularly those who wish to practice strict vegetarianism, according to the Court.
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