The Supreme Court has pulled up the Centre for not notifying the Food Safety Act, 2006, which provides for a better and stricter regime to check adulteration of food and beverages.
During the hearing of a PIL filed by the Centre, a bench headed by Justice AK Mathur sought to know why it had failed to implement the Act despite presidential assent given to it a year ago.
Warning that it would be forced to pass "judicial orders" if the government failed to notify the Act to regulate soft drinks and other food products, the bench asked the Asking Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran to furnish the government's explanation by September 5.
Parasaran submitted that "there were some procedural difficulties in implementing the Act" but the court was not impressed. Raising doubts over the government's sincerity, petitioner's counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted that it was an important issue involving the health of people, particularly children, who were being misled by advertisements of soft drinks.
Maintaining that the consumer has the right to know what he consumes, he argued that all carbonated drinks should disclose the composition and contents of the products and additives on the bottle, package or container. He sought setting up of a committee to evaluate the harmful effects of soft drinks on health, especially that of children.
The bench suggested to Bhushan to go ahead with filing criminal complaints after the Centre said that adequate provisions were already in place to deal with the issue.
Earlier, the Union Health ministry had stated that as per the amended provisions on labelling, which were notified in August 2006, the names of the ingredients along with percentages used in the product should be mentioned in descending order in respect of composition, by weight or volume.
The manufacturer should give the complete nutritional information per 100 gm on the label besides declaring compound ingredients in descending order of weight, it added.