Name: Karan Choudhary Institution: BMS College of Law
Food is the most basic source required by any living organism to sustain life. It is a nourishing substance which is consumed in order to obtain nutrition, nourish energy, promote growth, maintain health etc. There is a famous saying that ‘Health is wealth’ and in order to stay healthy one must eat pure fresh nutritious food. But in recent years the quality of food has been decreasing because harmful elements are being mixed with the food. This article includes a review on food adulteration and why is it done, its nature, the problems India is facing due to food adulteration and the laws present to fight against this health hazard.
Keywords: Food, Adulteration, Consumers, Contamination, Quality
Adulteration is the process of making something poorer in quality or altering its original form by adding materials or elements that aren’t usually a part of it, especially inferior ones. The most common form of adulteration is an addition of another substance to a food item, raw or prepared form in order to increase the quantity of the food item, which may result in the loss of actual quality of item. Food adulteration can be defined as an act of adding or mixture of inferior, harmful, poor quality, unnecessary substances to food, which are collectively called adulterants. Addition of these adulterants reduces the value of nutrients in food and makes it not fit for consumption as it contaminates the food These adulterants can be available in all food products which we consume daily. For instance, apple vendors , they apply a layer of the wax over the outer surface of the apple for increasing the sale which makes apples look shiny and attractive, this application of wax over the apple makes it unhealthy for consumption. Such activity is known as adulteration of food.
Why is Food Adulteration done?
For many years you might have noticed the practice of adding water to milk increase its quantity and gain more profit for less volume of milk. In May 2000 76,000 litres of adulterated milk packed in pouches similar to the ones of Mother Dairy run by the prestigious National Dairy Development was seized by the Delhi police.
Adulteration has become a thriving business in India. It has become a part of business strategy by food manufacturers and industries to gain more profit by cheaper means and also to come at par with the market by lowering the cost of production. Salt with chalk powder. Peppercorns with dried papaya seeds. Different vegetables are coloured with dyes to look bright and some of them are carcinogenic. Brick powder is mixed with chili powder. Another reason why adulteration is done is to increase the weight of the food, helps gain more profit, and increases sales in cheaper ways. Coriander powder with sawdust. Tea leaves with same coloured leaves. Coffee seeds with tamarind seeds.
The Annual Public Laboratory Testing Report for 2014-15 by FSSAI indicates that of the 49,290 samples of food items it tested, 8,469, nearly one-fifth, were found adulterated or misbranded. The increasing rate of population also plays a major role in the increase of food adulteration. As the demand becomes more than the supply in market, food is often adulterated to meet the needs of this growing population and to feed the largescale population. Food adulteration is usually done by those people who do not have a proper understanding of its hazards. They have no idea about the disease outbreaks caused due to adulterated food products. Due to lack of awareness and proper knowledge it is still widely practised.
Nature of Adulteration
Within the past few decades, adulteration of food has become one amongst the most intense issues. The Government of India has come up with many agencies to get rid of adulterants from food stuff.
In India, food adulteration is governed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. This Act gives us information on when a food will be considered adulterated. They are the following:
If the article sold by the vendor is not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by the purchaser.
The article contains any substance affecting its quality or of it is so processed as to injuriously affect its nature, substance or quality
If it contains any other substance added partially or wholly to the product as to affect its nature, substance or quality.
When a food product is stored or packed or prepared under an unhygienic condition which makes the food unhealthy for consumption.
When any diseased animal is used for the preparation of food
If the article contains any poisonous or other ingredient stuff which makes it injurious to health
When the container of food is made up of any health hazardous substance
When food colour is added more than the prescribed quantity which makes the food unhealthy for consumption.
When a food article is preserved with any prohibited substance or when food preservative is used in excess amount.
Based on the type of contamination, intention of the producer and processing methodology, adulteration can be divided into different types they are:
Intentional Adulteration: Here similar looking substance are added to the natural contents, to increase its weight and gain more profit. Example-mixing of pebbles, stones, marbles, sand, mud, filth, etc.
Accidental Adulteration: This occurs due to negligence while handling food like lead or mercury is metallic adulteration.
Problems Faced by Food Adulteration
Eating habits have changed rapidly in modern India. While traditionally Indian families used to cook home made food at home with healthy ingredients and knew what went into the meal, but now in modern times more and more people are have started using readymade food, packaged food or eating meals from restaurants. The food made in these outlets are made from poor quality ingredients or are being adulterated to satisfy the people rather than providing a good wholesome meal. Not only that even the daily food which we eat are being contaminated. Adulteration in food leads to several health issues in humans like stomach ache, body ache, anaemia, paralysis, and increase within the incidence of tumours, pathological lesions in very important organs, abnormalities of skin and eyes.
There has been instances were various chemicals and colours are used in fruits and vegetables which are very poisonous for health. Consumption of chemical-laden fruits and vegetables can prove disastrous for digestive system, eyes and liver. It can also result in vomiting and diarrhea in children, kidney failure. On an average, 13% of both packaged and loose food items sold across the country have been found contaminated; and the range varied considerably from one state to another, i.e., Chandigarh (40%), Uttarakhand (34%), Uttar Pradesh (29%), Rajasthan (23%), West Bengal & Himachal Pradesh (20%), Bihar (17%), Nagaland (16%), Madhya Pradesh, Odisha & Punjab (15%), Tamil Nadu (14%), Maharashtra (10%), Karnataka (5%) and Delhi (4%). In another survey, 70% of milk samples did not confirm to prescribed standards; i.e., 46% were with low solid not fat due to dilution with water, and 8% were with detergents.
Not only consumers, food adulteration also has an impact on big enterprises as consumers have started losing faith in their products, they have to destroy the contaminated food, pay for complaint and insurance expenses. The famous Maggie crises in 2015 where the FSSAI found high amounts of lead in Maggi and it was banned in the whole of India. Almost 3800 tonnes of Maggie was destroyed by nestle which was worth 320 crore. Thus, food adulteration Ought to be very important because of its impact on human health. Many people have been unfortunate victims of adulteration trade running in India.
Legal Response for Food Adulteration
Before there was no law against the liability of food adulteration but after the landmark judgement in Donoghue v. Stevenson case also known as the ginger bottle case The House of Lords held that there was a duty to care by the manufacturer towards her, which was breached, because it could be seen that failure to ensure the product’s safety would lead to harm to consumers. In India, the ministry of health and family welfare are responsible is responsible to provide safe food for the citizens. To keep a check on adulteration the government of India has passed an Act which is known as Prvention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. Later the ministry of health and family welfare established the Food Safety and Security Authority of India (FSSAI) under Food Safety and Standard Act (2006) to regulate science based standards of food and for manufacturing, packing, storage, distribution, import and sale to ensure the good quality of food.
A consumer can find out if a food is adulterated or not by using many home remedies. FSSAI has come up with a book which can be found online as well called DART (Detect Adulteration with rapid test) for checking the quality for various food articles like Milk, dairy products, sugar, fruits, grains, vegetables, sugar, beverages etc. For example to find out if there’s water in milk just put a drop of milk on a polished slanting surface. Pure milk either stays or flows slowly leaving a white trail behind while milk adulterated with water will flow immediately without leaving a mark. People while buying products from store and malls need to be very cautious. They should always check for standards like for, FSSAI standard mark, Agmark, ISI mark, date of packing and date of expiry etc. If none of the prescribed standard marks is there, then they should totally avoid buying such products.
If a consumer is aggrieved by a food product being adulterated, he can go through the following process:
First thing a consumer can an do is file a complaint to the manufacturer or shopkeeper from where the consumer bought the goods.
Second thing a consumer can do is file a complain to the local food safety officer or commissioner of the city or district.
Third thing a consumer can do is file a complaint in the consumer forum under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 for compensation.
Chapter IX (Sections 48 to 67) of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 contains provisions penalising various specific offences for failing to comply with provisions of the law and regulations made thereunder. Also, supplier, distributer, manufacturer who sells food which is adulterated and can cause injury to a consumer will be punished with imprisonment of 6 months and with a fine of rupees 1000 under section 272 of IPC and he can also be liable under section 16 of Prevention of food adulteration act. The punishment can also attend according to the grievousness of the act done.
Adulteration is one of the major problems of today’s life and its ill effects on health from their daily meal item, either, in fruits, cereals, pulses and vegetables or in milk and milk products and spices. The legal enforcement is only one measure for the prevention of food adulteration and it will not have any appreciable impact unless and until there is , awareness of the small traders about the food standards which they are expected to maintain, awareness of the common consumer regarding the dangers of adulteration and how to take advantage of the legal machinery to force the traders to get proper food and lastly a sense of honesty among the food traders, big small, in the maintenance of the safety and quality of food.