Amend penal provisions to control milk adulteration: SC

In an attempt to control the menace of growing sales of adulterated and synthetic milk in different parts of the country, the Supreme Court of India has urged the Union Government to consider making suitable amendments in the penal provisions at par with the provisions contained in the State amendments to the Indian Penal Code and also to revisit 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.

Considering the seriousness of the matter, a Large Bench of the Court disposed of the matter with the following directions and observations: –

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

b) 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.

c) 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.

d) 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.

e) 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.

f) 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.

g) 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.

h) 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.

i) 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.)

j) 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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