After getting a rap from the Supreme Court, the Centre has partially notified the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 that provides for a better and stricter regime to check adulteration of food and beverages, but without setting up the Food Safety and Standards Authority needed for overseeing its implementation.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said the implementation of regulations for labelling and disclosing ingredients of the contents of food and beverages has been deferred till February 20, 2008 in view of “practical difficulties” pointed out by manufacturing associations, trade bodies and individual industries.
The only provision, implementation of which has not been deferred, is the one prohibiting the use of tobacco and nicotine in food products.
Earlier, the court had specifically sought to know why the regulations for labelling and disclosing the ingredients of food and soft drinks contents had not been implemented, despite having been framed.
The Centre said an expert group on labelling and disclosing of ingredients, including representatives of industry and consumer organisations, constituted by the Ministry, has submitted its recommendations and “the Ministry has initiated the process of issuing the amended notifications.”
Regarding Ganguly Committee report on harmful effects of soft drinks, the Health Ministry said no country in the world has laid down maximum residue limits of pesticides in carbonated waters. An expert group set up by the government has decided that two alternate methods would be validated to identify the most appropriate one for adoption. The Ganguly Committee had recommendation that carbonated soft drinks in India should not have one part per billion (about one mg per litre) residue of an individual pesticide.
The affidavit has been filed in response to a PIL filed in 2004 by Centre for Public Interest Litigation, seeking disclosure of the contents of soft drinks on the label. The petition also demanded setting up of an expert committee to examine harmful effects of chemical ingredients of soft drinks.
It said “Sections 4 to 10 (both inclusive), 87, 88, 91 and 101 of the Act have been notified with effect from 15th day of October 2007 and the government was undertaking the necessary spadework for putting in place the infrastructure required for implementation of the Act, including constitution of a committee for selection of Chairperson and members of the Authority.”
“As the implementation of the Act involved significant inter-ministerial coordination, a Steering Group under the Cabinet Secretary has been constituted for overseeing the constitution of the Authority and make it functional by the end of this year,” it said.