Union of India and the State Governments shall take appropriate steps to implement Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 in a more effective manner – Supreme Court

Milk Adulteration In India

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

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.

Para-20. Since in India traditionally infants/children are fed milk, adulteration of milk and its products is a concern and stringent measures need to be taken to combat it. The consumption of adulterated milk and adulterated milk products is hazardous to human health. As directed by this Court by order dated 10.12.2014, it will be in order that the Union of India come up with suitable amendments in the Food Safety and Standards
Act, 2006 and the respondent-Union of India shall also make penal provisions at par with the provisions contained in the State amendments as
indicated above.
Para-21. As observed by this Court in the orders dated 05.12.2013 and
10.12.2014, it will be in order, if the Union of India considers making
suitable amendments in the penal provisions at par with the provisions
contained in the State amendments to the Indian Penal Code. It is also
desirable that Union of India revisits the Food Safety and Standards Act,
2006 to revise the punishment for adulteration making it more deterrent in
cases where the adulterant can have an adverse impact on health.
Para-22. Considering the seriousness of the matter and in the light of various
orders passed by this Court, the Writ Petition is disposed of with the
following directions and observations:-
i. Union of India and the State Governments shall take appropriate steps
to implement Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 in a more effective
manner.

ii. States shall take appropriate steps to inform owners of dairy, dairy
operators and retailers working in the State that if chemical adulterants
like pesticides, caustic soda and other chemicals are found in the milk,
then stringent action will be taken on the State Dairy Operators or
retailers or all the persons involved in the same.

iii. State Food Safety Authority should also identify high risk areas
(where there is greater presence of petty food manufacturer/business
operator etc.) and times (near festivals etc.) when there is risk of
ingesting adulterated milk or milk products due to environmental and other
factors and greater number of food samples should be taken from those
areas.

iv. State Food Safety Authorities should also ensure that there is
adequate lab testing infrastructure and ensure that all labs have/obtain
NABL accreditation to facilitate precise testing. State Government to
ensure that State food testing laboratories/district food laboratories are
well-equipped with the technical persons and testing facilities.

v. 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.

vi. Since the snap short survey conducted in 2011 revealed adulteration
of milk by hazardous substances including chemicals, such snap short
surveys to be conducted periodically both in the State as well as at the
national level by FSSAI.

vii. 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 as is done in the State of Maharashtra to take the review of
the work done to curb the milk adulteration in the district and in the
State by the authorities.

viii. 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.

ix. 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.)

x. Union of India/State Governments to evolve a complaint mechanism for
checking corruption and other unethical practices of the Food Authorities
and their officers.

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