Government rapped for not implementing food safety law

July 17th, 2008 - 10:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday rebuked the government for failing to implement a law on food safety, wondering if it had “the will to implement” the act. A bench of Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Dalveer Bhandari criticised the government and wondered how it managed “to sit over laws”, duly enacted by parliament and assented to by the president, “for eternity”.

“You set up a commission, then submit an action taken report (ATR) and then again set up a committee to look into the ATR. And this continues in an endless cycle,” it said.

The bench wondered if the government has “the will to implement the law” - the Food Safety Act, 2006, passed by parliament in 2006.

It suspected if there were “other factors than administrative inertia” behind the government’s “inaction and dilatory tactics” in not enforcing the food safety law.

At one stage, the bench appeared set to draw its own timetable for implementation of the law but refrained from doing so after senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for soft drink multinational PepsiCo, pointed to intricacies involved in the implementation of the new law.

It then ordered the government to give it by Monday a timetable to implement the law. It also directed the food secretary to appear in person to assist it in clearing the hurdles in implementation of the law.

The bench asked the government to inform it the date from which the Food Safety Act would come into force and the date from which labelling of food articles, including soft drinks, would commence.

It also asked the government to apprise it of the findings of a committee that examined harmful effects of ingredients and preservatives used in the packaged food articles.

The government told the bench that the implementation of the Food Safety Act was getting delayed because prior to its implantation all earlier related laws, including the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, had to be repealed and a new infrastructure for the implantation of new law had to be put in place.

Appearing for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, Prashant Bhushan accused the government of causing a wilful delay in implementing the law.

He said the government had more than once derailed its implementation on one pretext or the other.

He said the public too was being kept in the dark about the harmful effects of soft drinks ingredients, like phosphoric acid and carbonated water.

Salve said that his client had no problem in the implementation of the new law and it was already complying with it in context of its international operations.

He, however, added that small-time soft drinks bottlers would be hit hard when the Food Safety Act is implemented.

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