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Bugs in flour, court sees no problem

delhi Updated: Mar 13, 2009 00:34 IST
Harish V Nair

Six insects in 200 grams of atta (wheat flour) shouldn’t raise anyone’s hackles. Under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA), no action can be taken against a miller for selling such flour.

Delhi High Court has dismissed an appeal filed by the Delhi government against the acquittal of an Okhla-based miller by an additional sessions judge (ASJ).

According to the government, the miller, AK Sodhi, had sold “insect-infested wheat not fit for human consumption”.

A metropolitan magistrate had held the miller guilty under PFA, but the ASJ reversed Sodhi’s conviction in March 1996. The magistrate had ruled, “a food article shall be deemed to be adulterated if the article sold by a vendor is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser. No purchaser would ever demand atta containing three living or three dead insects or any egg or larva of insect”.

The high court, however, upheld the conclusion of the ASJ that it was not a case of adulteration, as insects in a 200 gram sample of atta taken for analysis did not mean it had been deliberately contaminated by the miller to increase the value or to downgrade the quality of the flour.

The judge pointed out that even the report of the public analyst had stated that the standard of the atta sample was not below the quality required and “the presence of insects was only an incident (that) can occur due to open storage”.

A team of food inspectors had visited Sodhi’s mill in Okhla on February 20, 1987 and sent a sample of 200 grams of atta to the public analyst, which revealed the presence of insects. Though the sample met the standards fixed for wheat flour, the magistrate had punished Sodhi for selling substandard wheat. The ASJ had also noted that the food department had failed to bring on record any evidence to establish how the nature, quality or substance of the sample atta prejudiced the consumer.