4 Nov 2022 3:20 PM GMT
The Delhi High Court has asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to consider framing a regime whereby fruits and vegetables which are ripened artificially by using ethylene gas or other artificial ripeners should have a "necessary indication" placed on it.A division bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice Tara Vitasta Ganju asked the FSSAI to draw up a broad...
The Delhi High Court has asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to consider framing a regime whereby fruits and vegetables which are ripened artificially by using ethylene gas or other artificial ripeners should have a "necessary indication" placed on it.
A division bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice Tara Vitasta Ganju asked the FSSAI to draw up a broad framework which takes into account all kinds of artificial ripeners so that the consumer is made aware of the fact that the fruit or vegetable has been ripened artificially.
The counsel representing FSSAI told the court that the matter will be deliberated upon and the guidelines will be placed before the court.
"List the above-captioned matters before this court on 30.11.2022 only for the purposes of ascertaining as to whether compliance has been made with the directions contained in paragraphs 20 and 20.1. above," said the court.
Consumers Must Know Whether Fruit Or Vegetable Has Been Ripened Artificially: Delhi High Court Asks FSSAI To Frame Guidelines @nupur_0111 https://t.co/xsRI8E9qMZ— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) November 4, 2022
Consumers Must Know Whether Fruit Or Vegetable Has Been Ripened Artificially: Delhi High Court Asks FSSAI To Frame Guidelines @nupur_0111 https://t.co/xsRI8E9qMZ
The court was dealing with two pleas filed by trading entities namely M/S M.M. Traders and M/S M.V. Traders that were aggrieved of the action of custom authorities who had detained their goods i.e. Ethephon (Ethrel) on the ground that a no objection certificate (NOC) was not obtained from Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee.
According to a notification issued by the Director General of Foreign Trade in 2015, insecticides which are imported for "non-insecticidal" purpose would require an import permit to be issued by the registration committee working under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation.
However, the counsel representing the petitioners argued that DGFT could not have issued such a direction as there is an exemption provision under the Insecticides Act, 1968. It was thus the petitioners' grievance that there was an impediment caused in the clearance of their product for home consumption.
FSSAI's stand before the court was that ethephon is not carcinogenic i.e., it is fit for human use, as long as it does not come in direct contact with the food substance, which in this case is fruits. A scientific panel constituted by it in 2020 concluded that it "is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from the diet".
However, according to the petitioners, the custom authorities refused to clear the imported product on the ground that the petitioners did not have the requisite import permit.
The court said the product imported by the petitioners goes by the name "ethephon", which, even according to the petitioners, is also referred to as "ethrel". "To be noted, the chemical and scientific name of ethephon is "2-chloroethylphosphonicacid". "Ethrel" finds mention in the schedule appended to the 1968 Act. Thus, having regard to the provisions of Section 3(e)(i) of the 1968 Act, the imported product will fall within the definition of the term "insecticide"," it added.
The issue before the bench was whether, in view of the provisions of section 38(1)(b) of the Insecticides Act, other provisions of the enactment would be applicable, given the fact that the petitioner entities were seeking to use the imported product only for "non-insecticidal" purpose i.e., as an artificial fruit ripener.
Since the petitioners' counsel agreed to furnish the information as sought by the Committee to hasten the process of issuance of an import permit, the court did not delve into the legal issue in detail and said the issue as to whether information was required to be given or not, has become academic.
"It is made clear that once the information is furnished, respondent no.3/CIB&RC will consider the same and issue the import permit to the petitioners. Needless to state, the import permit will be issued at the earliest if the information furnished is found to be genuine. We may also indicate that once the import permit is issued in favour of the petitioners, respondent nos.1 and 2, in effect, the customs authorities, will act on the same as per law," the court said in the order.
It added that once an import permit is issued, the petitioners will be at liberty to approach the customs authorities.
Title: M/S. M.M. TRADERS v. COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS & ORS.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 1044
Click Here To Read/Download Order