Laws for adulteration of food in India

We all know there are some basic necessities of human life in the absence of which a human being cannot survive. One of these is food, as it is an essential need in everyone’s life, whether human beings or animals. The human body needs food for survival as it builds new cells and tissues, which helps in growth, staying healthy, doing work, and everything else.

The food we consume must be healthy and free of toxic substances. Sadly, there has recently been a widespread trend of adulteration of food. And to prevent this, several laws have been enacted in India.

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In this article, you will read about the laws and regulations enacted to prevent food adulteration in India.

What Is Adulteration of Food?

Adulteration of food is the process of contamination of food either by adding ingredients of lower quality or removing some valuable ingredients. Due to this, the quality of food gets degraded. In other words, when a natural food item is mixed with adulterants (contaminants, impurities), it is referred to as food adulteration.

Food Safety and Standard Act of 2006 defines adulterants as any material which is or could be employed for making the food unsafe or substandard or misbranded or containing extraneous (irrelevant or unrelated) matter.

Why Adulteration of Food Needs to Be Stopped and Regulated?

The major effect of adulteration of food is on the health of a human. The consumption of these food items causes many problems in the human body. Some adulterants are harmful to such an extent that they may cause heart failure, liver problems, renal (kidney) disorders, and other health-related issues in the human body. Hence, the adulteration of food needs to be stopped.

Further, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides for the right to life of every individual. The right to life under the Constitution also includes the right to health. Hence, the right to health, being a Fundamental Right, needs to be protected. Therefore, the state must protect the health of every individual.

Laws Related to Adulteration of Food in India

Several laws have been enacted to restrict the problem of adulteration of food in India. However, those were repealed and replaced by a central legislation, that is, the Food Safety and Standards Act. Laws that contain provisions related to the adulteration of food are:

Indian Penal Code, 1860

IPC contains separate provisions concerning public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals. Section 272 of IPC deals with the provision related to the adulteration of food and drinks intended for sale. Accordingly, it provides for criminal penalties for adulteration.

Section 272 of the IPC provides punishment for persons who sell adulterated food or drinks as well as for persons who know that such contaminated food is being sold or will be sold in future. The punishment, as given in section 272 of IPC, is imprisonment of not more than six months or a fine of an amount not exceeding one thousand rupees or both (imprisonment and fine).

The offence contained in section 272 of the IPC is non-cognizable, non-compoundable and bailable. It can be tried by any Magistrate.

Note: Looking at the seriousness of the offence and the harm it causes to the human body, states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa have made the offence of adulteration of food to be punished with life imprisonment with a fine.

Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006

Part IX of the Food Safety and Standard Act (FSSA) contains penalties for offences related to the adulteration of food, either directly or indirectly. Section 51 of the FSSA provides punishment for persons who import, manufacture, store, sell or distribute any substandard food item for human consumption. Accordingly, the punishment for such an offence is a fine of five lakh rupees.

Section 54 of the FSSA provides punishment for persons who import, manufacture, store, sell or distribute any food item containing extraneous substances for human consumption. The punishment for this is a fine of not more than one lakh rupees.

Further, section 57 of the FSSA provides that if any person manufactures, stores, sells, imports or distributes any adulterant that may be injurious to health will be liable to a fine of an amount of not more than ten lakh rupees. And, if such adulterant is not injurious to health, then the person will be liable to a fine of an amount not more than two lakh rupees.

Furthermore, section 59 of the FSSA provides punishment for manufacturing, selling, storing, distributing or importing any food which is unsafe for human health but does not cause any injury with imprisonment for not more than six months and a fine of an amount not more than one lakh rupees. And, when such unsafe food causes non-grievous injury, the person will be punished with imprisonment for not more than one year and a fine of not more than three lakh rupees.

As per section 59 of the FSSA, if unsafe food results in grievous (serious) injury, the person manufacturing, selling, storing, distributing or importing will be punished with imprisonment of not more than six years and a fine of not more than five lakh rupees. And, if such unsafe food results in death, the person will be punishable with imprisonment of not less than seven years, and it may also extend to a lifetime and a fine of not less than ten lakh rupees.

Additionally, to ensure the availability of safe and decent food for human consumption, the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) was formed in India to establish science-based standards for food items and to control their manufacture, storage, allotment, sale, and import.

Conclusion

Earlier, there were several laws dealing with food safety and standards. In order to give the country a single law, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act was passed in India, which was later replaced by the Food Safety and Standards Act in 2006. Some of the Acts and Orders which were in force prior to the Food Safety and Standards Act are the Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order of 1998, the Vegetable Oil Product Order of 1980, the Milk and Milk Product Order of 1992, etc.

Read Next: What Legal Actions Can Be Taken Against Restaurant Owner Serving Bad Food?

Subhashini Parihar
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