What are the laws in India against adulteration of food?

food adulteration

When we go out to a restaurant for having our breakfast, lunch or dinner with our friends, family or colleagues, we trust them for using good quality of oil and organic vegetables. And when we consume unhygienic or toxic food our health suffers from issues like food poisoning and then we have to spend a lot of money on restoring our health.

Earlier there was no law governing against the liability of food adulteration but after Donoghue vs. Stevenson case which is also known as ginger bottle case, was a landmark judgment where the House of Lords held that the manufacturer owes duty of care against the consumer, he would be held negligent if there is violation of his duty. This case became the base for providing relief under food adulteration.

What do you understand by food adulteration?

Food adulteration is the process of adding an unnatural or inorganic element to the food, which looks similar to the original product and is hard to distinguish. Consumption of adulterated food affects health adversely. Food could be adulterated by adding chemicals, color, food polish, and other substances for increasing the vendor’s and manufacturer’s business profit.

For instance, apple vendors for increasing the sale of the apple, they apply a layer of the wax over the outer surface of the apple which makes apples look shiny and attractive, this application of wax over the apple makes it unhealthy for consumption. Such activity is known as adulteration of food.

Under which act food adulteration is governed in India?

In India, food adulteration is governed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954[i]. This Act defines when food will be considered adulterated. They are the following:

  • When a vendor sells a food article to a purchaser which is not of the quality or substance and nature demanded.
  • When it contains an unnatural substance that is hazardous to health consumption.
  • If any unnatural substance is added partially or whole to the original product.
  • When a food product is stored or packed or prepared under an unhygienic condition which makes the food unhealthy for consumption.
  • When any diseased animal is used for the preparation of food.
  • When a food contains any poisonous substance.
  • When the container of food is made up of any health hazardous substance.
  • When food color is added more than the prescribed quantity or if any other health hazardous substance is used for adding color to the food article.
  • When a food article is preserved with any prohibited substance or when food preservative is used in excess amount.

In what case, food will not be considered adulterated?

Under section 4(m) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 food article will not be considered adulterated when some ingredient of the food article contains in excess of the prescribed amount which is not hazardous for consumption. For instance, when sweets vendor adds sugar more than the prescribed quantity, it will not be considered adulterated under this Act, as sugar is not hazardous for consumption.

Who is the regulator of food standards in India?

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has established the Food Safety and Security Authority of India (FSSAI) under Food Safety and Security Act, 2006 to regulate the science-based standards of food and also for manufacturing, packing, storage, distribution, import and sale to ensure the good quality of food[ii]. This Act was enforced to set up a single food quality platform for various food products.

Acts like Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947, Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order 1988, Solvent Extracted Oil, De-Oiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967, etc. were repealed after enforcement of Food Security and Safety Act, 2006.

The other regulations that were enacted for maintaining the standard of food security are:

  • Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses) Regulation, 2011.
  • Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011.
  • Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction of food) Regulation, 2011.
  • Food Safety and Standards (Import) Regulation, 2017,etc.

What are the functions of FSSAI?

The functions of FSSAI[iii] is being given under the Food Security and Safety Act, 2006. They are as follows:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying an appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.
  • To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas that have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition.
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence, and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, identification of emerging risks and introduction of a rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats, etc. receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training programs for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.
  • Contribute to the development of international technical standards for food, sanitary and phytosanitary standards.
  • Promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.

How can you check if food is adulterated?

Now the consumer can easily be aware of the food they are consuming and check if the food or drink which they bought is healthy to consume or now by simple steps. FSSAI has set up an online platform named DART[iv] (Detect Adulteration with Rapid Test) for checking the quality of various food articles like milk, dairy products, oils, grains, fruits, vegetables, sugar, beverages,etc.

For instance, if a person has purchased vegetables you can check if it is adulterated or not by simply taking a dabbed cotton with water or vegetable oil and rubbing it on the surface of the vegetable. If the cotton does not change the color it is not adulterated. 

Where to complain when food article is found to be adulterated?

When food article is found to be adulterated there is 3-tier complain redressal system where a consumer can complain:

  • 1st tier is shopkeeper or manufacturer from where a consumer has purchased food or drink for consumption.
  • 2nd tier is Local Health Authority of District or Commissioner of Food Safety of the State/ Union Territory.
  • 3rd tier is Consumer Forum.

Consumers can also file complain through an Online portal named “the Advertising Standards Council of India[v]”.

What punishments are given for adulteration food under the law?

When any manufacturer sales, distribute, imports or stores any food article which is adulterated, he will be liable under section 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, 1954 and will also be punished with imprisonment of 6 months and with a fine of rupees 1000 under section 272 of IPC for selling of adulterated food or drink which are hazardous for health consumption[vi]. The punishment could also extend depending on the grievousness of the act done by the manufacturer or vendor.


Food adulteration is a heinous crime that has led to serious health conditions. And as a consumer, we need to be aware of what we are consuming and laws that are related to food adulteration in India so that we can take action against those who are practicing food adulteration.

Edited by Pushpamrita Roy

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje 








Samridhi Srivastava
I samridhi srivastava is pursuing B.A.LL.b from Lloyd Law college. My inclination is towards writing legal articles and doing legal research work and is also looking forward to have a career in legal journalism. I am also interested in writing shayari; reading novels of great personality like Swami Vivekanand, my experience with truth, APJ Abdul Kamal's sir autobiography etc.; reading news and listening music in my free time.