What can be done if you find worms/ hair/ adulterated materials in a packed food?

adulterated materials

It happens many times that the packed food contains worms, hair or other adulterated materials. It is a huge negligence on the part of manufacturers if these kind of incidents happen. A separate Act called the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 has been formed for this purpose.

Definition of Adulteration[i]

Section 2(1a) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 has defined the word “adulterated”. According to this Section following food items are considered adulterated:

  • When the item is not as per the nature, substance or quality demanded by the buyer;
  • When the food item consists of any material which can harm its quality, nature or substance;
  • When the product has been substituted with any material of low quality;
  • When the constituent of the article has been wholly or in part abstracted so as to affect injuriously the nature, substance or quality;
  • When the food item is kept under insanitary conditions which can harm the health who consumes it;
  • If the article consists wholly or in part of any filthy, putrid, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance or is insect-infested or is otherwise unfit for human consumption, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance or is insect-infested or is otherwise unfit for human consumption;
  • When the article is obtained from diseased animal;
  • When the article contains any poisonous ingredient;
  • If the container of article is formed of poisonous material;
  • If any colouring matter other than that prescribed in respect thereof is present in the article, or if the amounts of the prescribed colouring matter which is present in the article are not within the prescribed limits of variability;
  • If the article contains any prohibited preservative or permitted preservative in excess of the prescribed limits;
  • If the quality or purity of the article falls below the prescribed standard or its constituents are present in quantities not within the prescribed limits of variability, but which renders it injurious to health;]
  • If the quality or purity of the article falls below the prescribed standard or its constituents are present in quantities not within the prescribed limits of variability but which does not render it injurious to health.

Prohibition on adulterated food

Section 7 of the Act, imposes prohibition on manufacture for sale, store, sell or distribution of any adulterated food items. For the purpose of checking the prescribed qualifications of the food, Section 9 of the Act, provides for Food Inspectors. Following are some important powers of food inspectors as stated under Section 10 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954:

  • Taking the samples of food items from seller, consignee or a person delivering the product;
  • Sending the sample for analysis;
  • Power to enter and inspect any place where any article of food is manufactured or stored for sale;
  • Power to open any package and break open any door of premises where the product is kept;
  • Any food inspector may exercise the powers of a police officerfor the purpose of ascertaining the true name and residence of the person from whom a sample is taken or an article of food is seized.

Obligations of vendors, manufacturers and dealers of food items

Following are the duties of vendors, distributors, manufacturers of the food items:

  • Manufacturer and distributors of food items have to give the warranty regarding the nature and quality of food items to the purchasers before selling these.
  • Vendors of the food items have to disclose to the food inspectors, the names, addresses and other relevant information of the persons from whom they have bought the food items.

Penalties under different statutes

  • Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954- Section 12 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act has given the power to the purchaser of food item to send the food to the public analyst. Following are some conditions fulfilling which the food analyst can take this step:
  • The prescribed fee for this task is to be paid;
  • The consumer or purchaser of the food item has to inform the seller about his/her intention regarding same.

If the report of the public analyst says that the food item is adulterated then, the purchaser of food item can ask for refund of the fee paid.

According to Section 16 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, any person who sells or distributes adulterated food items, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months extending upto 3 years and with fine (extending upto Rs. 1,000)

  • The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006- The adulterants can be penalised under The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Adulterant has been defined the Act as “any material which is or could be employed for making the food unsafe or sub-standard or mis-branded or containing extraneous matter.” Section 40 of the Act gives the power to purchaser to get the food analysed. Section 42 has prescribed the following procedure of prosecution:
  • Food safety officer inspects the food item and sends it to the public analyst.
  • Then the public analyst sends the report to the Designated Officer within 14 days.
  • The Designated officer decides the punishment (fine or imprisonment).

Section 57 of the Act has specifies the penalty for possessing adulterant which is as follows:

  • When the adulteration is not injurious to health, the penalty will not exceed Rs. 2 lakhs;
  • When the adulteration is not injurious to health, the penalty will not exceed Rs. 10 lakhs.
  • Consumer Protection Act, 2019- Consumers can file complaint under Consumer Protection Act, 2019. Complaint has been defined under Section 2(6) of the Act and clause v says that the consumer can file complaint regarding goods which are hazardous to life and safety:
  • when the seller/ distributor knows that the goods are unsafe for the public;
  • when the goods are in contravention of standards relating to safety which have been specified in any law.

Sardarmal Jain v. Nagar Nigam, barfi was found adulterated with Rhodamine- B. It was observed that the Food inspector took the sample of barfi by placing it on the newspaper and Rhodamine- B is a material which is used in printing process. So in this case benefit of doubt was given to the seller.

In Varghese v. Food Inspector[ii], the court observed that the Food inspector should use clean and dry equipments for collecting the sample otherwise it may impact the result of anaylsis.

If adulterated food items are consumed then it affects the health of the consumer. There are several provisions which are helpful for the consumers in cases of adulteration. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 have provisions under which the purchaser of food item can even send the article of food to the public analyst. It is very important to report the cases of adulteration so that this practise of making profits by preparing and selling unhygienic and adulterated food items could be curbed.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[i] The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, s. 2(1a)

[ii] 1990 CriLJ 2354