Eighteen months after a Delhi government ban, state food inspectors will finally be able to take action against companies or vendors selling pan masala along with chewing tobacco, which can be mixed to form gutkha by the consumers.
The Delhi government order, which was first issued in March 2015, states that ‘manufacture, storage, distribution or sale of tobacco – flavoured or scented — going by the name of guthka or pan masala, packaged or unpackaged, or sold as separate products that can be easily mixed by the consumer’ is banned.
But pending cases by tobacco manufacturers in both the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court had left the food safety department toothless.
An interim order by the Supreme Court on September 23 allows the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the national regulator, and other state food safety bodies to take action against companies and vendors selling pan masala and chewing tobacco separately to circumvent the guthka ban.
In October, after the SC order clarified their position, the state food inspectors undertook a special drive, during which more than 60 legal samples of pan masala were picked up from the market.
Of these, around five were found to be “unsafe” as they were being sold along with chewing tobacco.
“Several companies have adopted the modus operandi of selling pan masala and chewing tobacco in separate packets. These are sold together by the vendors; when a customer pays Rs 5 or 10, they are given one pack of each. After investigations, actions will be initiated against such manufacturers and vendors as per the food safety act,” said an official from the Delhi department of food safety.