Panel on soft drinks will be re-constituted, apex court told (Second Lead)

February 8th, 2011 - 9:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) The Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA) Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it will re-constitute a panel of experts and scientists tasked to find out the harmful effects of chemicals used in carbonated soft drinks.The existing experts’ committee that includes people associated with soft drink chains, compromising its independent nature, drew adverse comments from the apex court.

Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation, said that the panel was contrary to the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which provides for an independent “panel”.

“His (Prashant Bhushan’s) grievance is well founded that the panel is not independent,” said the apex court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice A.K. Ganguly.

“The experts’ panel prima facie is violative of the act,” the court said.

Justice Ganguly described the existing 100-member panel as too huge. “It is very huge and unwieldy,” he said. The existing panel was formed Oct 5, 2009.

The court observed the presence on the panel of people associated with the food industry and soft drink chains was contrary to the statutory provisions.

The court recorded Bhushan’s plea that the newly constituted panel of independent scientists should also inform the court about the studies carried out on the chemical contents of soft drinks and their harmful effects.

The judges said that the petitioner would be free to give suggestions to the newly constituted panel and if it wanted it could meet the panel to make presentations.

Bhushan told the court that ever since the panel was set up nothing had been done to find out from the soft drink manufacturers about the chemicals used in their products.

He said that a bottle of soft drink contained about seven teaspoons of sugar and it was contributing to obesity among children. He said the panel should find out the amount of cocaine and phosphorous used in soft drinks.

Earlier defending the experts’ panel, the authority told the court that the members of the panel gave a declaration that they had no conflict of interest with the industry under their scanner.

Appearing for soft drink companies, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal said the companies were scrupulously following the standards prescribed by the World Health Organization.

Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told the court that the Indian Council for Medical Research was conducting studies on the harmful effect of carbonated drinks on humans and their report would be finalised by February 2012.

The FSSA has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act as a statutory body for laying down science based standards for articles of food and regulating manufacturing, processing, distribution, sale and import of food so as to ensure safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

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