FSSAI has told the Delhi High Court that a declaration regarding any food article being non-vegetarian or vegetarian is mandatory irrespective of the percentage of an ingredient used in it and every package of non-vegetarian food shall bear a symbol and colour code to indicate its nature.
In a response filed to a petition concerning the labelling of products, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) informed that it has issued orders to all the Commissioners of Food Safety of all States and union territories and Central Licensing Authorities to ensure compliance of the mandate and a notification was also published in 68 newspapers across the country, in 26 languages, to inform the public at large.
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It further said that an order was also passed on April 5 in respect of the declaration of Veg. or Non-Veg. logo for the source of ingredient including additives on the food label. Respondent no. 2/Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had issued orders dated 22.12.2021 to all the Commissioners of Food Safety of all States/UTS, and Central Licensing Authorities to ensure that all Food Business Operator should comply with the changed regulatory provisions i.e. ‘Every package of ‘Non-Vegetarian’ food having ingredients including additives, from animal sources but excluding milk or milk products, honey or beeswax or carnauba wax or shellac, shall bear a symbol and colour code to indicate that the product is Non-Vegetarian Food. It is clarified that the declaration regarding Non-Veg. or Veg. Food is mandatory irrespective of the percentage of any ingredient in the food”, said FSSAI in its counter-affidavit filed recently.
The authority stated that the task of implementation and enforcement of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 as well as its Rules and Regulations primarily lies with the State Governments/Union Territories through their officials who undertake regular surveillance, monitoring, inspection, and sampling of food products to check for compliances. Labelling requirements for marking food products as vegetarian & non-vegetarian already exist under the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 and Rules and Regulations made thereunder and enforcement of the same is carried out by State & Central Food Authorities, the affidavit said.
It stated that in case any food business operator is found to be violating the law, penal action is initiated against him. In March, the high court had said that there must be a complete disclosure regarding a food article being vegetarian or non-vegetarian as fundamental rights of every person are impacted by what is offered on the platter and directed FSSAI to issue a fresh communication to all the concerned authorities clearly stating the obligation to make clear disclosure as to whether the food article is vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
Since the right of every person under Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) and Article 25 (freedom to conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion) under the Constitution is impacted by what is offered on a platter, in our view, it is fundamental that a full and complete disclosure regarding the food article being vegetarian or non-vegetarian is made a part of consumer awareness, it had said. Petitioner Ram Gaua Raksha Dal — a trust working towards the welfare of cows had moved to the high court last year claiming that certain “non-vegetarian” products are unknowingly used or consumed by those professing vegetarianism due to the absence of proper disclosures.
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The petitioner, represented by lawyer Rajat Aneja, had stated that there are several items and commodities which are used in “everyday lives” without those professing vegetarianism realising that they are either derived from animals or processed using animal-based products. The primary endeavour of the petitioner is…not only (for) strict enforcement of the existing Rules and Policies of labelling products as Green, Red, and Brown, based on the nature of ingredients of a particular product, but also for directing the concerned authorities to make it mandatory for the manufacturers of food products, cosmetics, perfumes; home appliances like crockery, wearable items (apparel, belts, shoes, etc.); accessories (necklaces, wallets, etc.), and to label all such products similarly,” the petition has said.