Most e-stores still do not display the 'best before' date of food products
The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) said in an order dated February 24, 2020 that containers of non-packaged / loose sweets at shops should display the date of manufacturing of the product and before which date it should be consumed.
This rule was made effective from June 1, 2020. There have been instances of stale / expired sweets being sold to consumers, which is posing potential health hazards, FSSAI added in its order.
On September 25, 2020, however, FSSAI passed a new order stating that only best before date of the product is mandatory and manufacturing date is purely voluntary and non-binding.
Most people shop online more frequently amid movement restrictions due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. One day, I was trying to order Rasgulla through one of the restaurant aggregators but none of the websites or mobile applications declared the best before date.
The FSSAI order only extends to the labels on the containers but at a time when people are avoiding physical shops, how is one supposed to ensure the eatables they are buying are safe for consumption?
The episode led me to file a right to information application before the department of health and family welfare, which was transferred to FSSAI. After 10 days, I received the reply that did not clearly provide answers to my questions. The first appeal has been filed in this case.
My first question was: Why only milk products are covered in the February order and not other perishable eatables, such as cakes and pasties? Don’t they get stale with time?! FSSAI’s response to this was that the question was hypothetical.
The second question in my application was whether e-delivery partners are exempted from the rule. FSSAI clarified that they are not but most e-delivery partners do not display the ‘best before’ date for at least milk items listed on their websites.
Why shouldn’t one be punished for such violation?
My final question was whether steps have been taken by the FSSAI for proper execution of this order. The food safety authority replied that regular surveillance and monitoring is taking place.
It is our fundamental right to have safe and nutritious food as per Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Why, then, this pick-and-choose while declaring the manufacturing date and safe consumption period?
FSSAI must understand that stale milk product is not only sold at brick-and-mortar shops but also the virtual way though e-shopping.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.