The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Friday to consider amending the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSAI) to make milk adulteration a criminal offence punishable with life imprisonment.
Adulteration of food products is a crime under the IPC but entails maximum punishment of six months only. It can also be compounded by way of Rs 1,000 fine.
A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur gave the direction after perusing various expert reports revealing that adulteration of milk with chemicals such as baking soda caused several life-threatening diseases, including pneumonia and diarrhoea. It can also lead to skin allergies.
It said there was an urgent need to tackle the menace of growing sale of adulterated and synthetic milk in different parts of the country. Milk adulteration could adversely affect the growth of future generations as it was the staple diet of all children and infants.
West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh have already amended the IPC provision. The bench asked Centre and other states to adopt similar rules and disposed a 2012 petition seeking deterrent punishment against the offenders.
A Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) report of 2011 was quoted in the petition to state that 68.4% of milk being sold is impure. There was 100% adulteration in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Daman and Diu.
In Uttarakhand and UP, 88% of milk samples were found adulterated. “It is also desirable that Union of India revisits the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, to revise the punishment for adulteration making it more deterrent in cases where the adulterant can have an adverse impact on health,” ordered the bench, also comprising justice R Banumathi and justice UU Lalit.