New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from Nestle and Maharashtra government on a FSSAI plea seeking a stay of the Bombay High Court order prohibiting food testing by the government labs not accredited under new food safety law. An apex court bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant also issued notice on a FSSAI plea for putting the sale of Maggi on hold as it was a proprietary product and it’s sale was contrary to the Section 22 of the FSSAI Act. However, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that FSSAI for now was not pressing for this prayer. The court directed the hearing of the matter on January 16 as Nestle, represented by the senior counsel Harish Salve, said that it would file its response by January 5.
Regulatory frameworks all around the globe have been primarily set up to achieve the objective of ensuring food safety and protection of consumer interests. Both these objectives require that regulators analyse the information on various food safety and regulatory aspects throughout the Food Chain, including estimating dietary exposure for carrying out scientific risk assessments. Keeping in mind the huge diversity in the food products being consumed, regions in which they consumed, the population groups involved etc., it becomes virtually impossible to track the information on an individual product basis. Apart from the shear volume of data, the problem gets further compounded by the use of multiple languages, dialects and regional variations.
The preparation of reliable data on food requires precise nomenclature and detailed description of foods. Even data of good quality can be a source of error if they are derived from foods that are not clearly defined. Moreover, it is difficult to exchange data on foods, or to understand and compare various parameters such as nutritional status, consumption patterns, risk analysis profiles etc. for different regions, states or individuals, without a coherent description of foods in databases.
To objectively analyse the relevant data, regulators have used the categorization approach, where groups of similar products are clubbed together as one category. This category is used as the basic unit for capturing information and driving decision making in regulatory frameworks. FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), under its Food Safety and Standards act 2006 framework, section 3 (1) (j), defines Food as any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and includes primary food to the extent defined in clause (zk), Also, genetically modified or engineered food or food containing such ingredients, infant food, packaged drinking water, alcoholic drink, chewing gum, and any substance, including water used into the food during its manufacture, preparation or treatment but does not include any animal feed, live animals unless they are prepared or processed for placing on the market for human consumption, plants, prior to harvesting, drugs and medicinal products, cosmetics, narcotic or psychotropic substances.
Subsection (1) of Section 31 of the Act, dealing with Licensing and registration of food business states that No person shall commence or carry on any food business except under a license. Food Authority vide its Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration) Regulation, 2011 has provided the various conditions as well as formats for operating the licensing and registration framework for food business operators. This framework envisages creating a database of food business operators and the products being manufactured by them.