Sunday, June 4, 2023

Veg, non-veg markings on food items: Delhi HC says selling vegetarian items with non-veg ingredients violates rights of vegetarians

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The Delhi High Court has directed manufacturers of food items to ensure strict compliance of regulations marking vegetarian and non-vegetarian items clearly. The Court was hearing a plea that many food articles were being passed off as vegetarian article with the green dot mark even if sourced from animals.

The Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh directed that all the ingredients which are used in manufacturing of any food article should be disclosed completely. Not only the code names but also the origin of the ingredients is to be disclosed as to whether they originate from plants or an animal, whether they are manufactured/ cultured in a laboratory. The disclosure is to be made irrespective of the percentage/quantity used in the food article.

The division bench remarked that everyone has the right to know what they are consuming. Further, the bench said that the failure of the Central Government and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in checking the lapses has not only led to deceit by such food business operators of the public, the vegetarian consumer in particular. The failure of authorities has led to non-compliance of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the Regulations as well.

The bench further noted that though the usage of the ingredients might be minuscule or negligible amount, the use of non-vegetarian ingredient would render the whole product non-vegetarian which would offend sentiments of strict vegetarians, the religious and cultural sensibilities and their freedom of free practice and propagation of their religious beliefs.

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The bench also noted that an ingredient often used in instant noodles, potato chips, etc., named Disodium Inosinate is prepared commercially from meat or fish and which is sourced from pig fat. However, food operators do not disclose it is a non-vegetarian product in their packaging or that the food article wherein the said ingredient used is sourced from animals.

It is a violation of the fundamental rights of the consumer and attracts punitive damages, apart from prosecution by not disclosing the ingredients fully to the public or the consumers by food business operators.

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