Hide Not Thy Poison Within My Food

The Rajasthan High Court took suo motu cognizance of the widespread issue of food adulteration in the state. The court’s cognizance stems out of its desire to arrest the adulteration in food affecting the health of public at large. This order was issued on July 1, 2024 and sets forth interim directions, both, for the central and the state governments. The order was issued by Justice Anoop Kumar Dhand.

Key Issues Addressed By the Court

Loopholes in Food Safety Act (2006)

The Court identified weaknesses in the current legislation, particularly its lack of coverage for unorganized sectors and primary producers. The slow progress on the Food Safety and Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2020, was also noted with concern.

Inadequate Enforcement

The court also criticized the understaffing and underfunding of food safety authorities, leading to insufficient monitoring and enforcement of regulations. Additionally, the lack of properly equipped testing labs hinders effective detection of adulteration.

Court’s Interim Directions:

(a) Stronger Enforcement of Food Safety Act: The central and state governments need to improve their efforts in implementing the Food Safety Act, 2006. This means stricter enforcement and better monitoring of food safety regulations.

(b) Targeted Food Sampling: The State Food Safety Authority (SFSA) should identify areas and times with a high risk of food adulteration. By focusing on these areas, they can collect food samples more effectively and efficiently.

(c) Upgrading Testing Facilities: The SFSA needs to ensure that testing labs are properly equipped and staffed. This includes having the necessary technology and trained personnel to handle food testing procedures.

(d) Regular Product Sampling: The SFSA and district authorities should take regular samples of food products at various levels (state, district, urban, and rural) to ensure compliance with safety standards.

(e) Frequent On-Site Testing: Quick and easy tests should be conducted regularly at different locations (state, district, urban, and rural) to get a picture of potential food safety issues.

(f) Oversight Committees: A state-level committee headed by high-ranking officials, along with district-level committees led by district collectors, will be formed. These committees will review the work done by authorities in controlling food adulteration.

(g) Public Awareness Website: The central and state governments, along with relevant departments, are directed to create a website promoting public awareness about food safety issues. This website will explain how to file complaints, list responsibilities of food safety authorities, and provide contact information for food safety officers, including a toll-free number.

(h) Addressing Unethical Practices: The central and state governments, along with their departments, are instructed to improve the complaint mechanism to identify and address any unethical practices used by food safety authorities and officers.

(i) Effective Implementation of Anti-Adulteration Scheme: The government needs to take appropriate steps to ensure its “Sudh ke Liye Yudh” (Fight for Purity) scheme is implemented effectively in both its goals and execution.

(j) Public Education Campaign: The state government and food safety authorities should launch a public education campaign using various media channels (SMS, FM radio, TV, newspapers, print media, electronic media, and social media). This campaign should educate people about the health risks of adulterated food and involve children through workshops and seminars in schools to teach them how to identify adulterated food components.

(k) Monthly Compliance Reports: The court requires the authorities to submit monthly reports detailing the food samples taken and the steps taken to control food adulteration.

The court has scheduled further hearings on July 30, 2024, seeking expert guidance from senior advocates.

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