Food testing lab will be set up in Karnataka, taking note of lack of a government laboratory for testing food samples, the High Court of Karnataka directed the State Government.
The HC has directed the state to establish a proper laboratory in consultation with the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) – as per the report published in a leading daily.
The laboratory should be well equipped to test the samples as per the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and adequate staff should be employed to operate such laboratory, the HC said.
Justice V. Srishananda issued the directions while noticing that proceedings was initiated against Vijayapura district-based Iqbal Syed Saab Dafedhar, a distributor of a branded noodle operating from APMC Yard.
It was alleged that noodle was ‘misbranded’ as per the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011, to claim that it did not contain added Mono Sodium Gultamate (MSG) or popularly known as ajinomoto.
However, the court found from the record that food analysts came to the conclusion that the noodle was “misbranded” without even conducting the required test to find out MSG was present in the pack, which had claimed ‘no added MSG’ on the package.
The court wondered how Chief Food Analyst at Divisional Food Laboratory, Belgavi, could claim that noodle was “misbranbded” when the analyst in his report had stated that the lab had no facility to conduct MSG test. It quashed the proceedings initiated against the distributor.
During the hearing, it found that there is no proper laboratory accredited by NABL to test food samples under the FSS Act and no full-time food safety officers are available in taluks.
It also noticed that as an ad hoc arrangement, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is entered into with a private laboratory by the Government and the samples are sent to the private laboratory and reports are obtained.
“Acceptability/admissibility of a report given by a private laboratory for the purpose of adjudication of an offence under the Act is doubtful. It is the bounden duty of the Government to establish necessary laboratory for testing the samples under the Act. Such a responsibility cannot be outsourced by Government,” the court observed.
Pointing out that it is the duty of the Government to ensure the health of the citizens by effectively implementing the provisions of FSS Act, the court directed the Government to endeavour to appoint a Food Safety Officer in each and every taluk at the earliest.