To end the malpractice of ‘Adulteration’, The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India since its inception has been working actively to ascertain science-based norms for the production, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food products. This is done in an effort to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
WHAT DOES ADULTERATION MEAN?
The phrase "adulteration" is not defined by law; however the term "adulterant" is explicitly defined in Section 3 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. According to the legislation, Adulterant refers to any material which is or could be employed for making the food:
(i) unsafe or
(ii) sub-standard or
(iii) mis-branded or
(iv) containing extraneous matter
In view of the above, Adulteration can be characterized as the act of introducing an “adulterant” to a food item in order to impair or degrade the quality of a safe and wholesome food product.
PENALTY FOR POSSESSING ANY ADULTERANT
Section 57 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 categorically states that, any person who:
(i) imports or
(ii) produces for sale or
(iii) stores or
(iv) sells or
(v) distributes any adulterant,
Whether by themselves or via another person acting on their behalf shall be liable to fine.
Depending on the harm that the adulterant in possession is susceptible to causing, the Act further segregates the fine into two categories as follows:
(i) where the adulterant is not injurious to health, a penalty not exceeding two lakh rupees;
(ii) where the adulterant is injurious to health, a penalty not exceeding ten lakh rupees.
Moreover, as per sub-section (2) of Section 57 holding the adulterant on behalf of another person is not a valid defense when a proceeding is initiated under sub-section (1) of Section 57.
POWERS OF FOOD SAFETY OFFICER FOR CURBING THE ADULTERATION
• Any location where any adulterant is produced or stored is subject to inspection by the food safety officer, who may also take samples of the adulterated food or adulterant for testing.
• The Food Safety Officer has the authority to seize any adulterant that is discovered in the possession of a manufacturer, distributor, or dealer of any article of food, or in any of the premises he occupies in that capacity, and for which he is unable to give a satisfactory explanation.
• The Food Safety Officer may also seize any books of accounts or other documents that are discovered in his possession or under his control and that would be useful for, or relevant to, any investigation or proceeding under this Act.
• The onus of establishing that an adulterant was not intended for adulteration rests with the person whose possession the adulterant was taken when it is seized by the Food Safety Officer.