Nestle baby food row: Company found at wrong foot, still let off with warning
Pronouncing the verdict in 2012 baby food samples of Nestle India Limited seized by district health authorities after the company attempted to sell it in the market by declaring health benefits for kids indirectly suggesting it a replacement of breastfeeding, the court of adjudicating officer-cum-additional deputy commissioner RC Birdhan last week disposed of the case with a mere warning.
Notably, a health department team led by food safety officer on August 3, 2012, had raided the premises of Manmohan Kumar and Swanmal Amirchand and seized 50 cartons of tin-packed Nestle Lactogen 1(infant formula milk powder) of 450gm each.
The samples of seized product were sent to a food analyst, Chandigarh. According to the report of the analyst, the labels on baby food claimed health benefits such as growth and development, easy digestion, brain development, healthy vision etc.
The containers also had pictures of two baby birds with a mother bird with nest displayed on it apart from the Nestle logo to give an impression that the product was equivalent to the mother's milk.
The report said that all the declarations were in contravention of 2.3.1:3 of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and labelling) Act, 2011, hence the sample was misbranded and substandard. After an appeal by respondents, the samples were sent to Referral Food Laboratory, Ghaziabad (UP), which concluded their report on the similar lines.
ADC RC Birdhan in 2013 in a press interaction had claimed to take serious note of the violations of Food Safety Act done by Nestle India Limited and said that heavy fine may be imposed on the respondents.
Now, according to his verdict (in possession of HT), he said: "I have come to the conclusion that the company has made mistake by displaying picture of two baby birds with a mother bird with nest but the company did not increase its saleability during the period under dispute. The company has given in writing that they would not repeat such mistake. Hence, under the provision section 52(2)1, I issue the directions to the Nestle India Limited to rectify their mistake. The case is disposed of and warning is issued to the respondents."
Another case pending
It is noteworthy, that another probe is pending against Nestle India Limited under Infant Milk Substitute Act (IMS)(2013) which is of more grievous nature, wherein samples worth crores of rupees were sealed by Food and Drug Administration, Haryana, from the Nestle factory at Samalkha in Panipat in 2012. Surprisingly, no action has been taken so far against Nestle in the said case.