The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) for constituting a panel of scientific experts in violation of the Food Safety Act, 2006, which mandates independent experts from the field to be part of this body.
It struck down the panel as it housed representatives of various companies involved in the manufacturing of beverages and food products and directed FSSA to resconstitute it within two weeks.
The expert panel is required to provide special assistance to FSSA, the apex food safety body that comprises bureaucrats. As per the law the FSSA has to lay down guidelines to enforce food safety standards.
During the hearing of a public interest litigation, seeking a direction to the soft drinks manufacturing companies to declare the additives used in their products, a bench comprising justice Dalveer Bhandari and justice AK GAnguly were shocked to learn that the panel included members from the industry against which regulations have to be framed.
"How would such a panel function" the bench asked the FSSA counsel. "The whole panel constituted is contrary to the Act. What kind of recommendation can you expect from the panel?" the bench remarked.
The bench refused to accept any explanation from FSSA’s counsel that the panel wasn’t just an experts’ body but a team of persons from various specialised field who advise FSSA as and when asked for.
"Has the panel ever sprung into action? It is huge and unwielding," the bench said. It told the FSSA counsel that it was deliberately dragging the case that is pending before SC since 2004. According to section 13 of the Act, the court said, panel shall invite the relevant industry and consumer representatives for deliberations.