Supreme Court reminder to FSSAI on monitoring pesticides in food commodities
The Supreme Court on Tuesday held the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) responsible for monitoring and exercising control on soft drinks as per the rules, regulations and provisions in the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006. The court said this while delivering a judgement disposing of a case relating to use of chemical additives in soft drinks.
The public interest petition was about a regulatory regime for monitoring chemical additives in foods, including soft drinks and disclosure of contents and warnings. The petition had sought constitution of an independent expert committee to evaluate the harmful effects of chemical additives in food including soft drinks, specifically in children, and controlling misleading advertisements targeting children, less cautious and non-literate people.
The court verdict highlighted the importance of public communication on food safety and risk, food safety surveillance and other monitoring activities covering all stages of the food business.
The apex court also directed FSSAI to conduct periodic inspections and monitoring of major fruits and vegetable markets for presence of pesticide residues.
Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in 2003 and 2006 had found high levels of several pesticides in almost all major brands of carbonated beverages (also see 'Pesticide residues in bottled water), based on which Union health ministry in 2008 notified standards for individual pesticides in carbonated beverages to 1ppb (parts per billion). Going by the judgement of the apex court, FSSAI will have to put in public domain all information about pesticides and chemicals that have been tested while monitoring for compliance of standards since 2008.
Overhaul framework to regulate ads
CSE believes that the current regulatory framework with respect to advertisements of soft drinks as per the FSS Act and Advertising Standards Council of India code is not good enough and needs to be revised. Globally, there is an increasing body of evidence, demonstrating a strong linkage between obesity and non-communicable diseases, in children particularly, and advertisements of cola drinks and other junk food items.
Further, CSE believes that periodic testing and monitoring by the FSSAI should not be limited to raw fruits and vegetables. Packaged and processed food commodities, including soft drinks should also be tested.