Milk Adulteration; Swami Achyutanand Tirth Vs. Union of India [Supreme Court of India, 05-08-2016]

Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 – Milk Adulteration – Directions and Observations – Governments shall take appropriate steps to implement Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 in a more effective manner – take appropriate steps to inform owners of dairy, dairy operators and retailers that if chemical adulterants like pesticides, caustic soda and other chemicals are found in the milk, then stringent action will be taken – also identify high risk areas and greater number of food samples should be taken from those areas – ensure that there is adequate lab testing infrastructure and ensure that all labs have/obtain NABL accreditation to facilitate precise testing – ensure that State food testing laboratories/district food laboratories are well-equipped with the technical persons and testing facilities – Special measures should be undertaken by the State Food Safety Authorities (SFSA) and District Authorities for sampling of milk and milk products, including spot testing through Mobile Food Testing Vans equipped with primary testing kits for conducting qualitative test of adulteration in food – snap short surveys to be conducted periodically both in the State as well as at the national level by FSSAI – For curbing milk adulteration, an appropriate State level Committee headed by the Chief Secretary or the Secretary of Dairy Department and District level Committee headed by the concerned District Collector shall be constituted – to prevent adulteration of milk, the concerned State Department shall set up a website thereby specifying the functioning and responsibilities of food safety authorities and also creating awareness about complaint mechanisms – in the website, the contact details of the Joint Commissioners including the Food Safety Commissioners shall be made available for registering the complaints on the said website – all States should also have and maintain toll free telephonic and online complaint mechanism – in order to increase consumer awareness about ill effects of milk adulteration as stipulated in Section 18(1)(f) the States/Food Authority/Commissioner of Food Safety shall inform the general public of the nature of risk to health and create awareness of Food Safety and Standards – they should also educate school children by conducting workshops and teaching them easy methods for detection of common adulterants in food, keeping in mind indigenous technological innovations (such as milk adulteration detection strips etc.) – Union of India/State Governments to evolve a complaint mechanism for checking corruption and other unethical practices of the Food Authorities and their officers.

Milk Adulteration


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

(T.S. THAKUR, CJI.) (R. BANUMATHI) (UDAY UMESH LALIT) JJ.

August 5, 2016

WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 159 OF 2012

SWAMI ACHYUTANAND TIRTH & ORS. ….Petitioners

Versus

UNION OF INDIA & ORS. …Respondents

WITH

SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) NO. 1379 OF 2011

AND

CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.472, 476-478 AND 479 OF 2012

J U D G M E N T

R. BANUMATHI, J.

The present writ petition is filed in public interest by the petitioners highlighting the menace of growing sales of adulterated and synthetic milk in different parts of the country. The petitioners are residents of the State of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and NCT of Delhi and have accordingly shown concern towards the sale of adulterated milk in their States. However, the issue of food safety being that of national importance, Union of India has also been made a party-respondent. The petitioners allege that the concerned State Governments and Union of India have failed to take effective measures for combating the adulteration of milk with hazardous substance like urea, detergent, refined oil, caustic soda, etc. which adversely affects the consumers’ health and seek appropriate direction.

2. The petitioners have relied on a report dated 02.01.2011 titled “Executive Summary on National Survey on Milk Adulteration, 2011” released by Foods Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) which concluded that on a national level, 68.4 per cent of milk being sold is adulterated and it is alleged that the worst performers in the survey were Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Daman and Diu, where adulteration in milk was found up to 100%. In the States of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh 88% of milk samples were found adulterated. According to the petitioners, milk is the only source of nourishment for infants and a major part of the diet for growing children in tender age and if no effective measure is taken to ensure the purity of milk, health of the children will be adversely affected. The petitioners pleaded inaction and apathy on the part of the respondents to take appropriate measure to rule out sale and circulation of synthetic milk and milk products across the country which according to the petitioners has resulted in violation of fundamental rights of the petitioners and public at large guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The petitioners, therefore, seek for a writ of mandamus directing Union of India and the concerned State Governments to take immediate effective and serious steps to rule out the sale and circulation of synthetic/adulterated milk and the milk products like ghee, mawa, cheese, etc.

3. In compliance of various orders passed by this Court, all the States have filed affidavits stating that ever since

Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006

[for short “the FSS Act”] came into force with effect from 5.8.2011, the provisions of the Act are being sincerely implemented by the States and also indicating action taken by the States, number of prosecutions launched and status of those cases. States have further stated that after the National Survey on Milk Adulteration by FSSAI in 2011, comprehensive action is being taken by the State Governments to check whether milk is being adulterated with chemicals and stringent action is being taken in accordance with FSS Act and penal laws.

4. We have heard the learned counsel appearing for the petitioners, Union of India and counsel appearing for various States.

5. On behalf of Union of India, it was submitted that a fair mechanism for dealing with food safety and standards and for checking adulteration is in place. As the Parliament has enacted Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and Regulations, 2011 which are effective in taking care of the food safety and standards, it becomes, therefore, important to firstly refer to the legislative efforts made by the Union of India. The Parliament has enacted Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which is exhaustive on laws relating to food and repeals two other earlier laws relating to prevention of food adulteration. Preamble of the FSS Act, 2006 reads as under:-

“An Act 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.”

6. Some of the objectives of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 are as follows: i. To consolidate the laws relating to Food. ii. To establish Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science based standards for articles of Food. iii. To regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import. iv. To ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. The Act, apart from making more stringent provisions (e.g. prescribing higher penalties etc.) to curb food adulteration, also ushers in new concepts such as putting in place Food Safety Management Systems and Food Safety Audit to realize its ultimate goal of ensuring availability of safe and wholesome Food for human consumption. In order to ensure food safety, effective food safety systems implementation and to ensure that food producers and suppliers operate responsibly and supply safe food to consumers, the Act further stipulates:- ι. Licensing for manufacture of food products, which is presently granted by the central agencies under various Acts and orders, would stand decentralized to the commissioner of Food Safety and his officer. ii. Single reference point for all matters relating to Food Safety and Standards, regulations and enforcement. iii. Shift from mere regulatory regime to self compliance through Food Safety management systems. iv. Responsibility on Food Business Operators to ensure that Food processed, manufactured, imported or distributed is in compliance with the domestic Food laws.

7. Exercising power under the Act, Central Government constituted the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Duties and functions of the Food Safety and Standards Authority have been elaborately dealt with in Section 16 of the FSS Act, which states that it shall be the duty of the Food Authority to regulate and monitor the manufacture, processing, distribution, sale and import of food, and shall specify, by regulations, the standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food, mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management systems for food businesses and notify the accredited laboratories, etc. In exercise of powers conferred by Section 91 of the FSS Act, the Central Government framed the Food Safety and Standard Rules, 2011 which came into force on 05.08.2011. In exercise of powers conferred by Clause (o) of Sub-section (2) of Section 92 read with Section 31 of FSS Act, Central Government framed regulations viz. Food Safety and Standards (Licencing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations 2011. Under the said Regulation by virtue of Regulation 2.1, all food business and food operators are required to obtain licence and get themselves registered as per the provisions of FSS Regulation, 2011. The definition of the Food Operator, Food business and food are laid down under Section 3(o), 3(n) and 3(j) respectively of FSS Act, 2006. Likewise in exercise of powers conferred by Clause (k) of Sub-section (2) of Section 92 read with Section 23 of FSS Act, Regulations insofar as they relate to Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations, 2011 were made.

8. Chapter III of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 deals with the general principles of food safety. The Central Government, the State Governments, the Food Authority and other agencies while implementing the provisions of the Act shall be guided by the principles indicated in Chapter III of the Act, which read as under:-

“CHAPTER III