High Court Orders Full Disclosure Of Ingredients Of All Food Items

New Delhi: Everyone has the right to know what they are consuming, so it’s mandatory for all food business operators to make a “full and complete disclosure” of all ingredients of any food item, the Delhi High Court has ruled.

Not just the code names, disclosure must also be made whether the ingredients originate from plant or animal source, or whether they are manufactured in a laboratory, irrespective of their percentage in the food item, the court mandated.

“It should also be fairly disclosed as to what is the plant source, or animal source — as the case may be, in respect of all the ingredients in whatever measure they are used,” the Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh said.

Failure to comply with the stated requirements will expose food business operators to action for violation of fundamental rights of the consuming public and punitive damages, apart from prosecution.

“Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) should verify all such claims made by the Food Business Operators, and the connivance or failure on the part of the FSSAI or its officers to perform their duties shall expose all such officers to claims by the aggrieved parties, and prosecution under the law,” the court said.

The court was hearing a petition filed by non-governmental trust Ram Gaua Raksha Dal, which argued that they wanted their ‘right to know’ to be respected. The trust sought direction from the court for the authorities to strictly implement existing rules on labelling of food products and cosmetics, and argued that these rules should be made mandatory for all other items.

The members of the trust, followers of Namdhari sect of Sikhism, profess strict vegetarianism.

“The members do not know which of the products available in the market are fit for consumption by those professing strict vegetarianism because a lot of products, including eatables, are either having either non-vegetarian ingredients or undergo processing in such a way that they cannot be described as strictly vegetarian,” the petitioner told the court.

The court observed that failure of the authorities to check lapses is resulting not only in non-compliance of FSSAI Act and the regulations but also leading to deceit by such food business operators of the public at large, particularly those who wish to profess strict vegetarianism.

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