The Bombay high court recently struck down an order from the Food Safety and Standards Officer that asked ADM Agro Industries Latur and Vizag Pvt Ltd to remove a ‘misleading and deceptive’ label on its packaged refined soyabeen oil pouches.
The division bench of justice Anoop Mohta and justice KR Shriram struck down the order, as there was neither material to support the view of the assistant commissioner (food), nor were reasons given about why the product label was ‘misleading and deceptive’.
The action against the company was taken by the Food Safety and Standards Officer (FSSO) after visiting the company’s depot at Nasik in October 2014. During the inspection, the officer collected samples for testing, and on the same day, issued an order seizing 2,996 one-litre pouches of the refined soyabeen oil.
The company filed an appeal against the FSSO order. Acting on this appeal, the assistant commissioner (food) ordered the release of the seized pouches in March 2015, but on the condition that the company removes the label.
The company then challenged the assistant commissioner’s order in the high court. The FSSO responded to the petition saying the label – with the slogan “health fit toh sab fit” –and the claim of the edible oil being naturally rich in Omega -3, along with a sketch of a heart, was misleading and deceptive. The FSSO said they had no objection if the product is sold without the label.
However, the high court said the assistant commissioner had cited no reasons in his order about why the label was misleading and deceptive.
“A mere heart-like sketch, along with the statement health fit toh sab fit, would not amount to a misleading and deceptive statement,” the court said.
The court said sections 22 and 23 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, say there should be no misleading and/or deceptive statements on product labels, but there has to be some material indicating the statements on this label are such.
While the order passed by the assistant commissioner has been struck down, the court granted the authority the liberty to initiate action again, after passing a reasoned order.