Present Framework governing Food Safety Regulation
A. Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
4.1 In our country, there were a number of pre-constitutional and post-constitutional laws, orders, rules that aim at the protection of the consumer interests with special reference to safeguard food safety and the health of the consumer. They were introduced to complement and supplement each other in achieving total food safety and quality. However due to multiplicity in the specifications/standards in different Acts/Orders, and administration by different Departments and agencies, there were implementation problems and a lack of importance given to safety standards over a period of time. The food industries were facing problems as different products were governed by different orders, rules and regulations in the Country which needed consolidation.
4.2 With the aim to consolidate all the previous existing laws, the Food Act was enacted by Parliament which establishes a single reference point for all matters relating to food safety and standards, by moving from multi- level, multi-departmental control to a single line of command.3 To this effect, the Food Act establishes an independent statutory Authority - the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (Food Authority),4 which has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
4.3 The Food Act which came into effect in 2011, subsumes various central Acts like the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (37 of 1954); the Fruit Products Order, 1955; the Meat Food Products Order, 1973; the Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947; the Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation)Order, 1998; the Solvent Extracted Oil, De-Oiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967; the Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992 and also any order issued under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (10 of 1955) relating to food.5
4.4 For the purposes of the enforcement of the Food Act, the Food Authority along with the State Food Safety Authorities are responsible for monitoring and verifying the relevant requirements under the Act and its enforcement.6 The Act also provides for the appointment of a Commissioner of Food Safety of the State by the respective State Governments for efficient implementation of food safety and standards and other requirements laid down under the Food Act and the rules and regulations made thereunder.7
The Commissioner of Food Safety for each State is responsible for appointing Food Safety Officers for local areas who are responsible for enforcement and execution of the provisions of the Act.8 The Food Safety Officer also has been entrusted with the power of search, seizure, investigation as well as prosecution for the purposes of enforcement of the provisions of the Food Act.9
4.5 The Food Act in chapter IX deals with offences and penalties which provides for punishments for contravention of the provisions of the Act. While section 48 describes how an offence may be committed in regard to food adulteration, sections 50 to 67 prescribes punishments in case an offence is committed. In particular, section 59 prescribes punishment for unsafe food. Section 3(1)(zz) defines "unsafe food" as any article of food whose nature, substance or quality is so affected as to render it injurious to health. It provides for a graded system of punishment which is mentioned as under:
Section 59- "Any person who, whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures for sale or stores or sells or distributes or imports any article of food for human consumption which is unsafe, shall be punishable,-
(i) where such failure or contravention does not result in injury, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months and also with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees;
(ii) where such failure or contravention results in a non-grievous injury, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and also with fine which may extend to three lakh rupees;
(iii) where such failure or contravention results in a grievous injury, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six years and also with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees;
(iv) where such failure or contravention results in death, with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and also with fine which shall not be less than ten lakh rupees."
4.6 The Food Act also provides for adjudication by an Adjudicating Officer10 and establishes an alternative forum known as the Food Safety Appellate Tribunal.11 The procedures to be followed and the powers of the adjudicating officer as well as the Appellate tribunal are provided for in the Act12.
4.7 The Food Authority has the power, with the prior approval of the Central Government and after pre-publication, by notification, to make regulations consistent with the Food Act and the rules madethere under to carry out the provisions of the Act.13 For the same, the Food Authority has made the Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011 as well as the following regulations:
1. The Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food businesses) Regulation, 2011
2. The Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulation, 2011
3. The Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011
4. The Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011
5. The Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulation, 2011
6. Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sampling Analysis) Regulation, 2011