The Food Industry is one of the largest industries in India. The agriculture sector has played a vital role in uplifting the Indian economy as India has a huge potential for agriculture owing to its geographical location. Over the past few years India has also witnessed an increase in the productivity of the Food and Beverage Industry. The activities relatedto food industry includes production, processing and distribution. These activities play a crucial role in the food chain which intensifies the importance of food laws in India .The laws on food include a collection of laws and regulations which govern the food production, its distribution and consumption. These laws aim to protect the consumers and provide effective management of the food industry. It further ensures food safety which is considered as a core aspect for a healthy life and a healthy living. The food policies in India are framed under a protocol of standards adopted by the international organizations of which India is a member. In India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the core body which sets standards for the food to ensure and maintain superior quality of food. The food industry in India is also goverened by e various laws and regulations . which sets a touchstone for proper sanitation, licensing and other necessary permits that are required to be followed by the entities in the business of food.
- Food Safety and Need of Food Laws
Food is the very crucial aspects for our energy and well-being. Food Safety is one of the important elements which helps to maintain the nutrition level of our body. It ensures higher standards of food without any hazardous and harmful elements . Safe and healthy food can lead to the growth of the human health and can protect the consumers from various diseases. It is important to maintain food safety at every stage. Hence, the higher standard of food should be maintained from production till the stage of consumption. Food Laws were implemented for two reasons – 1) Regulation of specification of food and 2) Regulation of hygienic condition of processing/manufacturing.
Food Laws help to raise the standard of living of the consumers and provide a proper legal framework for permitting food licenses and criteria for obatining such permissions. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution,1950 provides every citizen for the right to healthy and safe food. Dealing in any food article that is is considered dangerous to human life is a violation of Article 21[i] read with Article 47[ii] of the India Constitution.[iii] Hence, the states are under the constitutional obligation to safeguards the right to food and also implement the laws to regulate the food policies in India.
- Laws regulating Food Industry in India
Till date, several laws have been enacted and implemented in India governing the food processing industry. Food Safety laws have gone through significant changes since many years. The FSSAI has played a notable role in bringing about a revolution to the Food Safety Standards in India. In the year 2001, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment in People’s Union of Civil Liberties v. Union of India (UOI) and Anr[iv] which catered to the issue of “hunger amidst plenty” in India. A writ petition was filed by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) with the concern of death due to starvation despite abundant availability of food in stock. It also stressed on enforcement of “Right to Food” as a part of Right of Life which is guaranteed under Funfamental Rights of the Indian Constitution. The Court, in this case, directed several actions ensuring access to food by all thereby uphodling the right to food as a fundamental right.
Preceding the enactment of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS Act) in India, the following food laws, existing prior to it, were repealed and compiled under the roof of the FSS Act.:
- The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (37 of 1954)
- The Fruit Products Order, 1955.
- The Meat Food Products Order, 1973
- The Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947
- The Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order, 1998.
- The Solvent Extracted Oil, De oiled Meal, and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967
- The Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992
- Any other order issued under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (10 of 1955)
The Food Safety and Standards Act,2006 consolidates various Acts and Orders that deals with food-related issues in various Ministries and Departments. The role of any regulatory body cannot be read in isolation but in view that between people’s health and safety of life stands a watchdog carrying its function to uphold the fundamental rights of every individual.
The Central Government has enacted the FSS Act and formulated various rules and regulations under it that regulates the standards of food products in India:
Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011 and the Food Safety and Standards Regulations 2011 – 2019:, .
- The FSS Act,2006 consolidates various acts and order that handle food-related issues in various Ministries and implement the act through food control authorities in various states.
- FSSA establishes a national regulatory body, Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) as an authority for food safety and quality in India.
- The FSSAI also regulates and monitor the manufacturing, processing, storage, distribution, sale and import of food to ensure proper consumption of food.
- The authority is also responsible to contribute to spreading awareness about food safety and framing of regulations to lay down standards and guidelines concerning various aspects of maintaining high standards of food.
- Apart from the mandate provided in the FSS Act, 2006, the authority is also responsible to coordinate with state government and local authority and promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.
Along with the FSS Act,Rules and Regulations, following are the provision under various laws which deals with food safety :
a) Indian Penal Code, 1860:
- Section 272 and 273 of IPC deals with Food Adulteration. This section states,, “Whoever adulterates any article of food or drink, to make such article noxious as food or drink, intending to sell such article as food or drink, or knowing it to be likely that the same will be sold as food or drink, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.” However, under the FSS Act, the penalty for selling misbranded or sub-standard food at present is between Rs. 3,00,000 to Rs.5,00,000. Whereas, the punishment for unsafe food that resulting in death is life imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10,00,000 and that for unsafe food resulting in grievous injury or death-like situation is an imprisonment of 6 years and a fine of Rs. 5,00,000.[v]
- In consequence to the Judgement passed by the Supreme Court in Swami Achyutanand Tirth & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors [vi] the Law Commission of India was directed by the Ministry of Home Affairs to examine the amendment to section 272 of IPC. The Law Commission Report precisely described the existing framework on food safety laws in India and how they have changed, not too long ago to meet the increasing demands of food regulations keeping in view the best practices followed in the world all over.. It suggested amendment of the section to the extent of incorporating huge compensation aspect for victims of adulterated food.b) Legal Metrology Act, 2009:
1. The Act is enacted to enforce the standards of weights and measures, to regulate trade and commerce in weights, measures and other goods which are sold or distributed by weights, measures and number.
2. The legal framework of the act also focuses on ensuring public guarantee from the security and accuracy of weights and measurements.
3. The act requires the manufacturing, packing and selling or importing the commodities in the prescribed manner and non-compliance of rules under the act will attract penalties.
4. The Act also established the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 for regulating the pre-packaged commodities in India and also provides regulations relating to labelling.
c) The Insecticides Act, 1968
- The Act was enacted to regulate the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides and to prevent risk to human beings.
- This Act has been specifically enacted to ensure availability of quality, safe and efficacious pesticides to the agricultural community of India.
- It governs the quality and permissible amount of pesticides which can be used in agriculture.
d) The Environment Protection Act, 1986
- The Act was enacted with the main objective to provide the protection and improvement of environment.
- The Act also incorporated the rules for the manufacture, use, import and storage of hazardous microorganism, substances and cells used as foodstuff.
- As a special feature, the Act also made compulsory for every food plant discharging waste into the mainstream to obtain a No Objection Certificate from the respective State Pollution Board.
e) Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Amendment Act, 1984
- The Act facilitates export trade through quality control and inspection before the products are sold to international buyers.
f) Consumer Protection Act, 2019
- The Act was enacted to protect the interests of the consumers and establish a mechanism to provide remedy to the consumers. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was amended in 2019 to overcome the problems in the earlier act and to cope up with the technological advancement.
- The Act is also important for the food business operators as they need to be aware of the rights of its consumers under the existing framework of consumer law and comply with all the other laws.
g) Voluntary Standards and Certification
- The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) formulates Indian Standards in the food processing industry by prescribing standards relating to raw material and their quality, hygienand requirements for packaging and labelling.
- The Agricultural Products (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937 provides Grade Standards relating to agricultural and allied activities which are governed by Directorate of Marketing and Inspection (DMI). These are specifically called as “Agmarks” standards.
- Constitutional Framework
A country’s constitution plays a fundamental role in the realization of the right to food as a constitution is the supreme law of the land and the sources of all political power within a nation. The constitutionality of every law and act of Government is one of the most important political principles of democracies. The Constitution of India also imposes a primary duty on the Government to improve the public health. Hence, lies the need to enact and implement various laws to regulate the food sector of India. The Directive Principles of the State Policy under the India Constitution also imposes various obligation on the state to improve the nutrition level and standard of living of the people. The Indian constitution also provides the provisions relating to the right to food and it is considered as a fundamental right under the purview of article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It is also important to consider that Right to food is inherent to a life with dignity and Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees a fundamental right to life and personal liberty and provides that it should be read with Articles 39(a) and 47 to understand the nature of the obligation of the State to ensure the effective realization of this right. The decision of Supreme Court of India in the case of Kishen Pattnayak & another v. State of Orissa[vii] and People’s Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India and others[viii] have recognized the right to food under the right to life stipulated in article 21 of the India Constitution, with reference also to the Directive Principles of State policy concerning nutrition, contained in article 47 of the Indian Constitution. Hence, the state must provide the food which can raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of the people. The Supreme Court in the landmark case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[ix] stated: “Right to life enshrined in Article 21 means something more than animal instinct and includes the right to live with human dignity, it would include all these aspects which would make life meaningful, complete and living.” In another case, the SC held that the need for a decent and civilized life includes the right to food, water and decent environment.[x] The National Human Rights Commission of India has also taken a view that Right to Food is inherent to a life with dignity, and that Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees a fundamental right to life and personal liberty should be read with Articles 39(a) and 47 to understand the nature of the obligations of the State to ensure the effective realization of this right.[xi]
- International Perspective
The human right to adequate food has been recognized in different international instruments, most notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[xii] It is important to note that the establishment and ratification of the international instruments are not sufficient. The implementation of these instruments through appropriate legislation is eually important. The International Food Security Treaty (IFST) is another international document which aims to place the human right of freedom from hunger under the protection of enforceable international law.[xiii] Besides the existing covenants, the International Food Security Treaty also stresses importance on the right to be free from hunger and makes an obligation to the member countries to establish their national laws to achieve the aims and objectives of the treaty. India is also a member of various international treaties which recognizes right to food thereby raisings the standard of living of people. The Government of India has also undertaken many reforms to enhance and ensure social safety and improve the nutritional level of the people. The Government has launched schemes such as the National Food Security Act,2013, the National Nutrition Strategy and the National Nutrition Mission, which aims at promoting convergent approaches that reflect the multidimensional nature of food and nutrition insecurity and addressesinequalities related to gender, age, disability, income, caste and region.[xiv] Through these efforts, the government is endeavouring to achieve the standards set by the international law and also move towards the targets of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and protect the social and economic interest of the people.
Food safety is the utmost responsibility of every nation. Food laws and policies play a very crucial role in regulating the food industry. It is also important that the laws should be updated with the changing circumstances in the food industry and with the pace of technological development. For example, the inclusion of e-commerce in the Consumer Protection Act,2019 has broadened the scope of the Act which now makes it easier for the consumers to bring effective actions against the violators. It is very essential for the government to ensure an adequate supply of essential commodities in the market and avoid shortage in the market. More importantly, proper implementation of laws and upgrading the laws with the changing situations and international standards will help us to make the legal framework of food industry better to attain the aim of food safety in India.
Sequence of Events:
|06.10.1860||Indian Penal Code|
|10.12.1948||Universal Declaration of Human Rights|
|16.12.1966||International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights|
|02.09.1968||The Insecticides Act
|25.01.1978||Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India|
|03.09. 1981||Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women|
|02.07.1984||Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Amendment Act
|23.05.1986||Environment Protection Act, 1986|
|20.11.1989||Convention on the Rights of the Child|
|09.01.1989||Kishen Pattnayak & another v. State of Orissa|
|30.11.2001||People’s Union of Civil Liberties vs. Union of India and Anr.|
|23.08.2006||Food Safety and Standards Act|
|13.01.2010||Legal Metrology Act
|05.05.2011||Food Safety and Standards Rules|
|10.09.2013||National Food Security Act|
|05.08.2016||Swami Achyutanand Tirth & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors|
|2011 – 2019||Food Safety and Standards Regulations|
|07.06.2019||World Food Safety Day|
|Consumer Protection Act,|
Contributed by Adv. Chirag Dave, Adv. Deepali Kasrekar, Adv. Manashi M
[i]Article 21: ”No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”
[ii] Article 47: “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health”
[iii] Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. UOI, AIR 2014 SC 49 –
[x] Chameli Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, MANU/SC/0286/1996.
[xi] https://nhrc.nic.in/press-release/right-food-fundamental-right last visited 30 May, 2020.
[xiv] http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/document%281%29.pdf, last visited on June 01, 2020.