The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) has proposed life imprisonment for adulteration in the proposed draft for amendment to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

“Any person who whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, adds adulterants to food so as to render it injurious for human consumption with an inherent potential to cause his death or is likely to cause such harm on his body as would amount to causing grievous hurt, irrespective of the fact whether it causes actual injury or not, shall be punishable for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may be extended to imprisonment for life and also fine which shall not be less than 10 lakh rupees,” the draft reads.

MOHFW has issued a notice that was made public through Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on October 18 and sought suggestions from the stakeholders in 30 days.

Called the Food Safety & Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the MOHFW seeks to review the Act comprehensively and included several new provisions related to definitions, punishment and inclusions of the subject of animal feed.

However, the industry representatives were not happy about a limited time of 30 days to file suggestions before the MOHFW.

Meanwhile, the MOHFW has proposed to include the declaration as ‘it is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that the Union should take under its control the food and the animal feed industry’.

The proposed amendment also prescribes that ‘Claims’ would mean ‘Characteristics’ of the food products which presently uses the term ‘Quality’.

The draft also proposes a new definition of the food contact material as, ‘Food Contact Material’ means any material in contact with food or intended or reasonably expected to come into contact with food’.

Also, the draft says that the Food Authority may prescribe food contact material requirements for an article of food.

The Bill also provides detailed definition of proprietary food and novel food.

According to the draft, proprietary food means an article of food for which standards have not been specified but is not unsafe: Provided that such food shall contain ingredients and additives which are permitted under this Act and regulations thereunder.

Novel food means a food or food ingredient (other than Genetically-Modified or Engineered foods) that is newly developed through innovative technologies and/or production processes that has not been used previously, and includes those food or food ingredients, which do not have a history of human consumption in the country.

The draft further proposes that the food authority will have the responsibility to prescribe mechanisms for handling food safety incidents (which means an incident that is hazardous to human health). The mechanism includes reporting, investigations, corrective and preventive action.

Among penal provisions, the draft proposes that the distributors will have no liability, in case of packaged food, procured, appropriately stored and not tampered with. The criminal liability would lie with the manufacturer, according to the draft.

Punishment for unsafe food to be modified as the draft says that 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 fine which may extend to three 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 five lakh rupees; and (iii) where such failure 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 seven lakh rupees.

Further, punishment for false information provided to the food authority is also enhanced in the draft from the three month imprisonment and two lakh rupees fine to only fine of ‘Rs 10 lakh’ while the punishment for carrying out business without licence is now proposed to be ‘a further fine on daily basis which may extend up to Rs 5 lakh,’ in case of continuing business.


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